Culture

Och aye the no – why I can’t bring myself to support Scotland against England

18 Jun 2021 8 minutes Read
Scotland football fans

David Owens

When Scotland square up against England tonight, I would, on the face of it, have an easy decision to make.

As a Welsh football fan you might imagine my default setting would be to throw my support behind anyone who plays England.

However, for me and many other Wales fans of a certain vintage, there are several reasons that when it comes to the Scottish national football team, we have long held issues that are still to be fully resolved.

Football has a habit of bringing out the irrational in all of us. And for me that irrationality is no more transparent than when it comes to the Scots.

Not the Scottish people, nor their beautiful country, nor their wonderful culture and insatiable thirst for independence, just their national football side.

Happily they’ve not actually qualified for a major international tournament for more than 20 years, so I’ve not had to worry about having to address my evidently deep seated issues.

For many of us this skewed relationship begins one fateful night in the late ‘70s – and with one man in particular – Joe Jordan.

The gap-toothed, handball thief, and for so long enemy number one for many Wales fans, who to this day have still not forgiven the Jock cheat for robbing us of a place at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina thanks to famously handling the ball and a penalty being awarded against Wales in a 2-0 loss to Scotland at Anfield, is most definitely a key catalyst for my long held trauma.

His kissing of his arm as he wheeled away following the penalty and his refusal to have ever acknowledged his complicity let alone apologise, only compounded matters.

That infamous qualifier, on October 12, 1977 is the first Wales game I can remember watching on TV. Days later, despite our ignominious failure to qualify – teaching me a life lesson as a nascent supporter of the international side I would learn to shoulder for another three decades – I was taken to Edwards Sports in Cardiff city centre to buy my very first football shirt. The work of art that is the Wales Admiral kit, replete with green and yellow stripes.

So every cloud etc.

The years 1976/1977 were the moment of my footballing inception and an introduction to Welsh footballing pain. Years zero for my lifelong love of the game, and my antipathy to Scotland’s national football team.

Football then, like most young boys my age was the epicentre of my world (that and the music of The Jam and Madness, but that’s a musical rites of passage for another time) And amongst my footballing world which revolved around, in no particular order, Gola football boots, Roy of The Rovers comics, Adidas holdalls and Shoot magazine League Ladders, the 1978 World Cup collection issued by Italian sticker manufacturer Panini was, for several months at least, where my pocket money was neatly filtered like some pre-pubescent money laundering scheme.

Pained

Although it was through gritted teeth and a pained expression that I gingerly applied Scottish team stickers to this album, handling them as I would a test tube containing coronavirus.

This instantaneous dislike was compounded eight years later on another fateful – and this time tragic night. September 10, 1985, Wales v Scotland, at Ninian Park in a decider for qualification to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

That ‘85 team, managed by Mike England, was brimful of players with star quality – Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Mickey Thomas, who all lined up in this crucial World Cup decider.

Everyone was hoping there wasn’t a sense of deja vu playing the Scots, while hopes were high that Wales would march triumphantly towards the World Cup.

Although, as we now know, it didn’t quite work out like that.

Wales drew 1-1, losing out to another harsh handball decision and with it hopes of qualifying for another major international tournament.

It was, however, a tragic evening. Scotland manager Jock Stein collapsed pitchside at the final whistle, and died moments later in the treatment room at the stadium.

It cast a long and sombre shadow on footballing history between the two sides.

They say it’s always good to confront the demons from your past. Bizarrely, and unexpectedly, I got the opportunity to confront one of mine almost 20 years ago.

It was February 2002. My mate and I had travelled to the McAlpine Stadium to watch Cardiff City take on Huddersfield Town, only to find out the evening game was off as we arrived at the stadium.

Furious that the match had been postponed so late in the day, we vented our spleen at staff. It was after all, a 456 mile, eight and a half hour round trip from Cardiff, so you could forgive us our ire.

Then, walking across the car park I spotted a familiar face – the panto villain of Welsh football, Joe Jordan and the man who gave me that very first taste of the sort of footballing disappointment I would have to learn to suffer in the course of my life supporting Wales.

At that point he was assistant to manager Lou Macari at Huddersfield Town.

Red mist

The red mist was already rising, but spotting the bogeyman of 1977 in front of me I thought this was too good to be true.

Racing towards him I started spitting invective. He was so startled he didn’t say a word as I roared at him that his club was tinpot, he was a gap-toothed cheat and he and Scotland could f*** off. Or words to that effect.

By this point he had reached his car, gave me a look that screamed ‘who is this demented lunatic?’ and hurriedly drove off.

My mate was bent double laughing. It’s just a shame it was before you could properly record videos on your phone, as this was a viral video waiting to happen.

Yes, it possibly wasn’t my finest hour, I’m not prone to confrontational outbursts and I’m not particularly proud of this chance encounter, but god I felt bloody good getting it out of my system.

On more sober reflection the man famed for having two front teeth missing, would no doubt have removed mine if he had put his mind to it. Possibly me taking him by surprise and the CCTV that was no doubt trained on the car park put paid to any physical retribution.

Which, let’s face it, is a good thing. The former Leeds and Manchester United striker is revered as one of football’s legendary hard men. In short he was a nutter on the pitch – and for those who remember his infamous squaring up to Italian enforcer Rino Gattuso during and after Milan’s European tie with Tottenham (where Jordan was a coach) he was unhinged off it, too.

If my close shave was catharsis or a mental cleansing, I’m afraid it’s yet to rid me of my dislike of the Scottish football team.

Possibly a Scotland fan!

Russell Todd, of the very fine Podcast Peldroed, sums it up perfectly in an excellent essay on the subject of Wales v Scotland rivalry: “The tribal, partisan nature of fan loyalties is such that injustices are branded in fans’ collective consciousness, and passed down through the generations. Grudges are held, whether that’s against refs, certain clubs or certain opposing players; and are inherited, learned and borne by successive generations of fans. That’s just how it is.”

I still can’t stand Scotland (a reminder – just the national side, not any of you wonderful and possibly bemused Scots who might be reading this). And Joe Jordan will always be fully garnished with words not suitable for a family audience.

As a Tartan Army-related aside I saw Gordon Strachan at the Wales v Slovakia game at Euro 2016 – and laughed myself silly after I’d told him: “It’s nice to see someone from Scotland at the Euros, Gordon.”

Fair play, he told me to ‘f*** off.’

Moments later, Hal Robson-Kanu scored the winner in Wales’ Euro opener and me and my mate danced like ecstatic lunatics in front of rows of amused French people, who gave us a round of applause when we’d finished.

Football then, both the most irrational and the most beautiful game.

*For the sake of fairness, I should also declare I have an English wife, who will no doubt read this – and to be honest, I don’t want to be sleeping in the spare bedroom again tonight.

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Farrar Road
Farrar Road
4 months ago

personal opinion~ I hope Scotland win over England – Too many years of the “neighbour” reminding us about ‘66, 1 f*cking World Cup with home advantage and questionable referee decisions and they think they are the Masters of the universe . In fact for this tournament anyone but the English…

arthur owen
4 months ago
Reply to  Farrar Road

No its ‘anyone but the English’except Scotland.I was in my thirties in 1977 so it was not quite as bad for me as it was for David,but it was bad enough.

hdavies15
hdavies15
4 months ago

Boy got issues, I’m sure he could get help if he asked nicely. Getting all fanatical about a sport when it should bring people together for some good humored socialising is all a bit ass-backwards. Still we see it all the time with fanatical Welsh rugby supporters who still suck up to anything with royal connections. Superficial patriotism not really worth a light.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
4 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I always thought Max Boyce’s song, from the Live at Treorchy album, Ten Thousand Instant Christians, should have been written as Ten Thousand Instant Welshmen! (I’d met a few Welsh rugby fanatics who hated nationalists with a vengeance)

And, David, let it go, mun. Joe Jordan did what he felt would help get his country through. If a Welsh player had done it, he’d still be a hero. Sometimes winning is more important than playing fair.

and before anyone accuses us of being the same person, we definitely aren’t!

mactavish
mactavish
4 months ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

Agreed, Jordan was not to know the ref would award a penalty. I can’t believe he calculated that his blue clad arm would be mistaken for a Welsh one.
Anyhoo, Mark Hughes pushed Alex McLeish at Hampden to get a Welsh goal, so there!

Valerie Ann Williams
Valerie Ann Williams
4 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I do have a name of a good psychiatrist for you as you so obviously are desperate for one

Jeff Cleaton
4 months ago

I was there that night at Anfield and will never never ever forgive Joe Cheating Jordan. However I cannot bring myself to ever support England any chance they can both lose 😁

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Cleaton

You got your wish…sort of! I just wanted to see Pickford pick the ball from the back of the net over and over again…Mrs is a L’pool supporter!!

mactavish
mactavish
4 months ago

Let it go, man . Blame the ref if anyone. Good luck to Wales, looks like they are going through, Scotland probably not.

billy_hardy's_bald_spot
billy_hardy's_bald_spot
4 months ago

Same generation, very similar memories of Joe Jordan’s hideous handball. But am I the only bitter Wales follower to have achieved a certain amount of catharsis via watching Ally and his immensely irritating Tartan Army march over-confidently on to a 3-1 hiding at the hands of Peru in their first game in the 78 World Cup? Still possibly the most fun I have ever had watching a game of football, and if I’d actually had a first son I would definitely have named him for my lifelong hero, Teófilo Cubillas.

Last edited 4 months ago by billy_hardy's_bald_spot
Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
4 months ago

Wales weren’t ready to take on a World Cup finals for two decades after that. Forget about Jordan, David, Scotland had a good side at the time, and above all they had Dalgleish. We’re in the Euro finals, if that’s any consolation to you! Pob lwc i Gymru ac Yr Alban eleni.

I love the Scottish game, personally. YouTube has a fascinating five-part series on the history of Scottish football made in 1986 called “It’s Only a Game”. Strongly recommended.

j humphrys
j humphrys
4 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Hibs: 1 – Hearts; 10. My Edinburgh uncle’s dream!

Last edited 4 months ago by j humphrys
Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
4 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

I agree with your uncle.

Ljflet
Ljflet
4 months ago

One incident and you’re removing support from a Celtic neighbour. counter this with the hundreds of stunts England pull and their arrogance. You are also the underdog as a nation, supporting England over Scotland because of one player is sad and is it’s definitely not how most my Welsh friends feel.

Swistir
Swistir
4 months ago

I am glad someone else feels the same way as I do about the Scottish football team! I have a Scottish colleague here in Switzerland and I said to him that I have long standing issues with Scottish football… I don’t remember the 1977 game being only 5 at the time but I do remember 1985 and the dodgy penalty against David Phillips and Southall almost saving it. I haven’t forgiven them for either event so it has been quite amusing to see how poor they have become over the last 20 years. That said last night they played well… Read more »

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
4 months ago
Reply to  Swistir

I was surprised how well Scotland played. If they beat Croatia and the Czechs beat England it would even be possible for England to finish third and not go through to the next round (and Wales could still miss out if the Swiss beat Turkey and we get hammered by Italy). Even Germany could go out if they lose to Portugal today as they would then only get 3 points by beating Hungary. The best one though is that Denmark could beat Russia and finish second with only 3 points but still make the last 16. Mind boggling tournament permutations.… Read more »

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
4 months ago

Have you considered therapy? Obviously got serious, long lasting issues?

Eifion
Eifion
4 months ago

Dwy law y dylem gofio -llaw Duw a llaw Diego-ond Jiw anghofiwch Un Joe.

LynE
LynE
4 months ago

This headline is no better than the “boyo” stuff that London tabloids like to direct at Wales. The sort of thing you use as a platform for yet another article designed solely to push our outrage buttons. Poor show

Tyson Taylor
Tyson Taylor
4 months ago
Reply to  LynE

I agree. That and the use of ‘Jock’ is something I find embarrassing and fairly condescending and I’m sure Mr Owens wouldn’t have said it to Joe Jordan in the car park that day in Huddersfield. For what it’s worth, I’ve followed the national team for over thirty years and whilst Scotland were indeed our nemesis in qualifying for both Argentina 78 and Mexico 86 perhaps the author could redirect some of his anger towards the FAW. It was the FAW who after all decided to move both games to different venues and lessen our advantage on both occasions in… Read more »

Col
Col
4 months ago

Joe Jordan hand ball did not rob Wales of a place in Argentina. The game was 0-0. If it stayed at that, and there were only 12 minutes left, Scotland would still have won the group. The only team who could have qualified that night were Scotland. Wales had another game to play, against Czechoslovakian away, which they lost.

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