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Och aye the no! Why I can’t bring myself to support Scotland at the Euros

13 Jun 2024 8 minute read
Scotland football fans

David Owens

When Scotland square up against Germany in the opening game of Euro 2024, 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 another Celtic nation.

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, not even their desire to cover everything in batter.

I even enjoy the odd can of Irn-Bru now and then. No, this irrationality applies solely to their national football side.

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. Year 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 some years later.

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 and possibly bemused French people, who gave us a round of applause when we’d finished.

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


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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 month ago

I’m ignoring this article. I’m backing Yr Alban 1000%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Arthur Owen
Arthur Owen
27 days ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

Can’t ignore it though can you.

Ianto
Ianto
1 month ago

The only time I’ve been able to support Scotland since that infamous hooligan-fest in Anfield has been against England.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago

Of course if only VAR was around for Joe Jordan’s handball.
The 1985 game is a different scenario altogether, with the players that Cymru had at their disposal they should have qualified for the 86 World Cup without having to rely on the last game.
Furthermore the then 🤡s at the FAW insisted on that game being played at Ninian Park to accommodate The Tartan army when The Cymru fans and players wanted the game to played at Wrecsam.

Simmo
Simmo
1 month ago

This gave me a smile! Great article! I will be happy though to see ‘ na h-Alba’ do ok at these Euros…and, let’s face it, I don’t think any side will come close to achieving our 2016 feat: that is, after a 58 yr absence from top flight competition, promptly getting to a semi final in one!

Riki
Riki
1 month ago
Reply to  Simmo

Agree, can’t see them getting out of the group. Hope I’m wrong though.

Riki
Riki
1 month ago

I will still be supporting them! They aren’t anything like the Anglo, or Germans for them at matter. They are far more down to earth!

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  Riki

The German people I have met and worked with were great people, I hope they do well.

Riki
Riki
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

Well aren’t you lucky!

Gareth
Gareth
29 days ago
Reply to  Riki

Not lucky really, I find that how you treat others, is how they treat you.

Y Wal Goch
Y Wal Goch
1 month ago

As a 17 year old at that game I still refer to them as, cheating, handballing ba@@@@@s. I hope they never win another game, ever.

Riki
Riki
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Wal Goch

That was one Scot!

Ian MacFadyen
Ian MacFadyen
1 month ago

Gwarthus!

Rob
Rob
29 days ago

I support 2 teams: Wales and any team playing England. I’m happy to support the Scots this time around as Wales didn’t qualify, although I don’t think that they will get far after the result against Germany last night.

Euron
Euron
29 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Yes, of course, if Wales were there I’d be supporting them. But, in their absence, I’m happy to support both of the home nations that did qualify. I find this ‘anyone except the English’ thing childish, annoying and- frankly- embarrassing. Most of us support English Premier League sides and many of the players in the Welsh squad were actually born in England so it doesn’t make sense. Sport is sport. Not an extension of geo politics, however hard some people try to make it so.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
29 days ago
Reply to  Euron

I’m by no means anti English about anything yet football and sport have their arch rivals the world over.
Have you ever met a Welsh Rugby fan that supports England?
Rivalry and Banter is what makes sport so why should the people of Cymru support their arch rivals.Do Netherlands fans support Germany.Do Greek fans support Turkey.Do Serbian fans support Albania.Do Brazilian fans Support Argentina.Do Indian cricket fans support Pakistan.
Of course many people in Cymru support English Premier League Teams as do people in Africa and Asia that doesn’t mean that they also have to support England.

Euron
Euron
29 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

I seriously doubt whether England view Wales as serious rivals when it comes to football. That dubious honour would probably be shared between Germany and Argentina. Of course, as a Cardiff City fan, I fully understand rivalry and banter in sport (er, Swansea/Bristol) but I cringe a bit when banter crosses over into something more ominous and disturbing.

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

Incidentally, despite being a Bluebirds fan, in the unlikely event of Swansea City or Bristol Rovers ever making it to the Champions League final against Bayern or Barcelona or similar they would have my wholehearted support. It would surely be churlish and childish not to do so… er, wouldn’t it??

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

Well if people are grown up enough then they’ll know their limits when it comes to banter.
This applies in everyday life more so than football.
I will make no further comment on this but during Euro 96 When England made the Semis under Terry Venables a well known tabloid headline said “Stuff The Welsh,Scots and Irish this is our day”.

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Well, you wouldn’t really expect anything else from the tabloids would you?

Rob
Rob
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

Its not just the tabloids but its the UK media in general. It has a very Anglocentric bias who often forget that the UK is made up of four different countries and not just one. If Wales beat England in the Six Nations for example the pundits will play down the result with smirk remark like “I’m not taking anything away from Wales but…”. Similarly when Wales knocked out Belgium in 2016 to reach the semis they were described as the ‘Best of British’ as though as if we should be sharing our achievements with the rest of the UK,… Read more »

Ianto
Ianto
28 days ago
Reply to  Rob

This Anglo-centric bias shows when they refer to places like Leeds and Manchester as being in “the north”. Yes, they are in northern England, but absolutely in the south of the UK.

Rob
Rob
28 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

In addition to your comment: England fans chanting “One world cup and two world wars” to the Germans, yet we are the ones with a grudge.

Last edited 28 days ago by Rob
Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Gary Lineker famously said that most football supporters are ‘thick’. And he was right. As your example eloquently proves.

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Rob

A section of English fans still frame an England v Germany match in terms of ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘the war’ but a section of Welsh fans frame any England v Wales clash in terms of Owain Glyndwr or Llewelyn against the evil Saxon. No real difference. Both ridiculous.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

Speak for yourself, many of us don’t support English Premier League teams – I never have and never will.

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

I suspect you’re in the substantial minority when it comes to football fans in Wales. But hey, I sincerely wish Cefn Druids all the best next season…

Gareth
Gareth
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

Try telling Everton fans to support Liverpool in the champions league, or Arsenal fans to support Spurs, as you say, sport is sport, and very tribal.

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

Silly though isn’t it? In Cardiff City’s unsurprising absence I happily support any UK team in the Champions League. Just like, in Wales’s absence this time round, I happily support any UK team in the Euros.

Gareth
Gareth
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

If my team is absent from whichever tournament, I am not really bothered as to who wins, and I certainly dont “support” another team, I will watch parts of these Euros , but support another team, not for me. Pleidiol wyf I’m gwlad.😀

Rob
Rob
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

How many players in the English Premiership are actually English, and how many national teams have players born in other countries? Instead of calling out those who cheer against England as childish maybe try to understand as to why they do so, and its not necessarily down to geo-politics. It is mostly rivalry and banter, however for many it is the way me our national team is treated by the establishment in England’s favour. For example pub chain’s contract themselves to show England matches over Wales matches even in their Welsh pubs when both teams are playing at the same… Read more »

Simmo
Simmo
28 days ago
Reply to  Rob

I think this brings up an interesting part of the discussion. If we were to break down what comprises England into it’s constituent parts – then I personally don’t have a dislike of players or manager , they don’t seem boorish or outspoken. The problem for me comes with the appalling press we have at UK level: the lopsided size the countries making up the UK means that there is inevitably way more focus on England; but for me, the manner of that press reporting is dire. I remember how in 2016 Euros what came across to me as unrelentingly… Read more »

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Simmo

Well, you know it sells papers and the printed press is in such a dire state at the moment. As are pubs- hence the ‘watch England matches here’ banners. The majority of their target audience is in England (naturally, being the most populated) so, irritating as it may be to find reports of Wales matches etc pushed down the news agenda in papers such as the Mail or the Times I tend to roll with the punches. Its a commercial decision, not a political one. And, let’s face it, there are far more serious issues to be concerned about right… Read more »

Rob
Rob
26 days ago
Reply to  Euron

If pub chains are going to contract themselves to show England matches then logic applies then that should apply to their English pubs only, with individual contracts per nation. The same with the media, UK wide papers have separate editions for Scotland and NI, maybe they should do the same for Wales. As for the BBC, we pay a TV licence like everyone else does, I’m pretty sure if they or ITV purchase the rights to broadcast a sporting event then there should be a moral obligation to be impartial between home nations.

Ianto
Ianto
28 days ago
Reply to  Euron

Just like the English will be supporting their close neighbours France (20-odd miles from them) when their team gets knocked out, I suppose????

Euron
Euron
28 days ago
Reply to  Ianto

Ah yes. The ‘English.’ That vast, homogeneous entity.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
28 days ago

I was at the Wales v Scotland game at Anfield, Jordan is a cheating barsteward. The tartan army was vicious, lots of bottles were thrown at the Wales fans squashed in the corner of the Kop. ‘No Scotland, no party’ wasn’t true that night disgraceful scenes at Anfield. At Ninian park too in the 1980’s a bottle was thrown by the Scottish fans into the Grandstand. I’ve loved watching us beat Scotland at Ninian Park, the Millennium Stadium, and more recently the Cardiff City stadium. I hope we draw Scotland in the next World Cup qualifiers a guaranteed 6 points… Read more »

Andy Williams
Andy Williams
28 days ago

If I can’t support Cymru, then I support Scotland. Simples

Gareth
Gareth
27 days ago

Didnt take long for the English fans to live up to their reputation did it, fighting in the streets with the Serbians, and chanting songs about world war 2 and German bombers. And people wonder why the team is not universally loved, I do feel sorry for the England players they must feel ashamed of their fans.

Arthur Owen
Arthur Owen
27 days ago

You will not have been disappointed then Dave.

scotlandddd
scotlandddd
20 days ago

Cry more LOL

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