I love going to Scotland games, especially at Hampden. From my first game when Kenny scored THAT goal versus Spain. The damp heavy air floating across the pitch, the bright floodlights, the anticipation, the noise and the dark blue jerseys.
But my favourite Scotland memory came at Villa Park in 1996. After the disappointment of the weekend defeat to England came the news that my Uncle, living down South, had managed to get three tickets for Scotland’s final group game gainst Switzerland. So I set off with my dad to see if we could, for the first time, take the next step into the knockout stage off a major tournament.
There would need to be a five goal swing in our favour between us and Holland for us to sneak the runner- up spot. England had been unconvincing so far, a draw against an average Swiss team at Wembley followed by a flattering 2-0 victory over us. Our thoughts were that England may be able to win by the odd goal, two at the most and if we could manage a 2-0 or 3-0 win then we could get through.
Around the perimeter of Villa Park there are fully glazed hospitality boxes, filled with guys drinking wine and watching both the live football in front of them and, in many cases, English blokes watching their team on the telly.
England scored early on, Super Ally scored a peach which we were directly behind. By half time things were looking optimistic with both Scotland and England winning 1-0 and we were hammering the Swiss, creating chance after chance. As the second half progressed the “prawn sandwich” bridgade behind us were going mental as England scored three goals in 10 minutes to race into a 4-0 lead. Unbelievably the requiired five-goal swing was here, if only we could get a sceond goal to give us some breathing space.
But … it was Scotland so we couldn’t and then disaster, with only 10 minutes to go Patrick Kluivert nutmegged David Seaman and we agonisingly went out on goals scored.
The players couldn’t have been faulted for effort and I remember the Holt End literally bouncing with the noise as we tried in vain to get the second goal.
Unlucky Scotland — yet again.