European Championship qualifier, Group 2

ScotlandvBelgium7919 December ~ Scotland manager Jock Stein is asked in a questionnaire if he has a particular dislike in football. “Yes,” he responds, “the game has become much too violent! Strength now is more important than skill.” Yet in his column, he laments that Scotland’s 2-0 defeat in Belgium the previous month, which saw them knocked out of contention for the 1980 European Championship in Italy, showed “a lack of traditional attitude in the team”. By contrast, the Under-21s had won and “showed traditional qualities. They played as a team, fought hard and refused to accept defeat.” No mention of skill.

The Scottish refusal to accept defeat is also exposed as something of a myth in the very same programme. A column by News of the World hack Martin Frizzell looks back exactly 25 years to Scotland’s 1954 hosting of the legendary Hungarian team, featuring Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Nandor Hidegkuti. Although the Scots lost 4-2, “we came off the field more than pleased with ourselves”, according to striker Lawrie Reilly. At 3-2 down, Scotland “just failed” to equalise with three minutes left, then Hungary went down the other end and scored a fourth. Glorious failure – whatever the Latin translation of that is should be embroidered on the SFA emblem.

And so to tonight. Belgium needed to win to qualify. “Scotland, of course, have nothing to lose tonight except pride and prestige,” noted Ken Robertson of the Scottish Daily Express. “But that makes them no less dangerous…” Of course not. Except that they were 3-0 down after 30 minutes. Wave goodbye to that pride and prestige. From glorious failure to abject failure instead – a familiar story over the subsequent three decades.

Targeting the fan demographic “Hair by Taylor Ferguson. International hairdressers to many of Scotland’s top footballers.” Though none are pictured, or named.

Result Scotland 1 (Robertson) Belgium 3 (Vandenbergh, Van der Elst 2) 
Crowd 25,389 
Scotland Rough, Jardine, McGrain, Wark, McQueen, Burns, Dalglish, Aitken, Johnstone, Bannon (Provan), Robertson
Belgium Custers, Gerets, Millecamps, Meeuws, Maartens, Vandereycken, Cools, Van Moer (Plessers), Ceulemans, Vandenbergh (Dardenne), Van der Elst

Ian Plenderleith

Ian Plenderleith's "Rock n Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League" is out now, published by Icon Books

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