There are, some say, two kinds of history: the stuff you get out of books, and the stuff that’s real, living history.
The latter usually sparks emotion from those who have experienced certain occasions, whether it’s war or work, social or sport.
Football fans especially can relive moments years after the event, good and bad, almost forming immunity to the latter – especially true if you happen to be a Scotland fan.
There isn’t a generation who don’t have their own dark day, when they witnessed their national side being humped or humiliated. Some can readily recall a 7–0 World Cup drubbing by Uruguay, others when England cheated their way to a 9–3 win at Wembley, playing with an orange ball that the Celtic ‘keeper wouldn’t catch and the Rangers full-backs wouldn’t kick.
Today’s kids only needs to look as far back as the weekend and the thrashing handed out by the USA, their fathers probably able to tell the next generation of Berti Vogts’ first game against France, an evening when the Scots were lucky to get nil.
But even Scotland teams regarded as half-decent had the ability to come a distant second-best to better teams on the day.
Between qualification for successive European Championship finals, Portugal thumped Andy Roxburgh’s XI 5–0, while a trip back to the 70s still has many pondering how such reversals could happen.
While Craig Levein might want to look at the 5–1 pasting the other day as a blip, in the mid-70s Scotland suffered a “double-blip” at the hands of England.
On a cold, February evening in 1973, the SFA thought it a good idea to play the Auld Enemy to launch their centenary celebrations. At the end, it maybe didn’t seem such a good idea: the scoreline Scotland 0 England 5. Still, Bobby Moore (“superstar, wears frilly knickers and a padded bra”) was happy in being awarded his 100th cap.
Of course, that game didn’t matter. It was only a friendly, certainly how it was thought about later in the year when Scotland qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in 16 years, with ostensibly the same group of players who had been humbled at Hampden.
The euphoria of being one of the top 16 teams in the world (there were no rankings as such then) certainly carried Scotland along through thick and thin for the next few years.
When Scotland trooped down to Wembley in 1975 as part of the Home International Championship (remember that season finale?), there was hope in the hearts for the travelling throng that perhaps a first win on English soil could be achieved since Scotland had become champions of the world in 1967.
A scrambled draw against Wales was followed by a convincing win over Northern Ireland. Optimism flowed like Tennent’s Lager and McEwan’s Pale Ale.
Those liquid refreshments would certainly be welcome by the end of the 90 minutes on Wembley’s hallowed turf. The reputations of a few Scottish goalies lay buried beneath that well-manicured lawn – and, sadly, that of Stewart Kennedy was to join the others.
QPR midfielder Gerry Francis began the tale of woe after just five minutes, combining with Mick Channon, then eluding Danny McGrain before smashing a shot from 25 yards past the flat-footed Rangers ’keeper.
Within two minutes, England’s lead was doubled. England broke at pace down the right, Francis fed skipper Alan Ball, who found Kevin Keegan. He looked isolated, with only Kevin Beattie on a charge forward. But Keegan’s cross found the Ipswich defender who, from around the penalty spot, looped a header up and over Kennedy who collected the post rather than the ball.
It was a horrible goal to lose for any goalkeeper. And England’s third in the 40th minute was no better. Colin Bell burst through a Danny McGrain tackle and shot, beating the diving Kennedy to his right, the ball at least four feet inside the upright.
While Bruce Rioch netted from the spot before half-time, Scotland and Kennedy’s day just got progressively worse.
England worked the ball to the impressive Francis from a free-kick – and, again from distance, he beat Kennedy aided by a deflection off Scotland skipper Sandy Jardine.
Number five summed up Kennedy’s afternoon. Ball chipped over a free-kick from the right which Keegan headed at goal. Kennedy, at full stretch, touched the ball on to the bar, the rebound knocked against a post by Dave Watson only for David Johnson, another Ipswich star, to complete the misery.
It had been Kennedy’s fifth appearance for Scotland. It was his last, ironically, after the only loss he’d suffered between the sticks. But what a loss.
There were, however, no protests or demands for Willie Ormond to resign. After all, he’d led Scotland to West Germany and, with the group of players he’d leave when he moved on to Hearts, would put them on the road to Argentina.
Scotland rode out that Wembley aberration, and would return two years later to, quite literally, take England and the venue apart.
So what is different from that painful defeat compared to last Saturday’s beating across the Atlantic?
There is a mindset that, despite their qualification record for the World Cup and their world ranking, we shouldn’t be losing to a bunch of Americans. A completely blinkered viewpoint, in my opinion.
No, the main difference is that Scotland were less than a year on from the 1974 World Cup finals where they remained unbeaten. To get there, Scotland had out-qualified Czechoslovakia, who in 1976 would be European champions.
Scotland were riding the crest of a big wave. The were clattered by a big roller in London that May afternoon, but the momentum had been built.
The current Scotland malaise runs far deeper. Manager Craig Levein might talk of improvement, but that is more statistic than realistic. Results might be better, but unless you qualify for a major finals tournament, nothing – and I mean nothing – counts.
That’s why the USA result might be far more damaging than some think. But then reality doesn’t really hit until you get home …
– Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.