A lament to my National side

It’s been aaages since my last post, and I don’t even have a good excuse. However, the European football championship is on at the moment, and when there’s two games a day, what else would you expect?! At close of play tonight, we’re nearly finished with the group stages, and there’s still SO MUCH MORE FOOTBALL! This makes me rather happy.

Carley wrote a piece a few days ago, about being an England fan, and the experiences that  come her way due to being based in Scotland. I’m not going to write an argumentative repsonse, but I am going to make the most of this opportunity – things aren’t quite so rosy on the other side of the “Anyone But England” coin

Regular readers of this blog should be familiar with the fact that I am a life-long Celtic fan. At club level, my team get their fair share of success, and in the most part, being a Celtic fan isn’t too depressing! Nationally though, it’s a completely different story.

The Scotland national side is a joke, putting it bluntly. In my lifetime, they’ve been nothing but insignificant underdogs, but it wasn’t always the way: the 70s were pretty good – we qualified for both World Cups in that decade, and managed to beat England(!) That run of form continued into the 80s, where again, we qualified for both World Cups, in ’82 and ’86. The circumstances surrounding the latter qualification, however, are traumatic.

The Tartan Army at Hampden v Norway 2008
The Tartan Army at Hampden Park in 2008

Scotland had one qualifying game left, against Wales, and they needed but a point to progress. They were a goal down with only nine minutes left, but Scotland were awarded a penalty, which was coolly converted, thus gaining them the draw required. After the game, during the celebrations, the manager at the time – Jock Stein, one of Celtic’s greatest players and managers – unfortunately suffered from a heart attack and subsequently died. Obviously, this was all a wee bit before my time, but it’s clear from results and statistics since then that the Scotland squad hasn’t quite been the same.

Jock Stein as Celitc Manager
Jock Stein after Celtic won the European Cup in 1967

The first proper memories I have of football are talking about France 98 when I was in primary school. I was only 8, and I didn’t have a clue what was going on: I knew hardly any of the players, or any of the match results. It was a hard group though, with Brazil, Morocco and Norway joining us in Group A. Unsurprisingly, we finished bottom, managing only to nick a point against Norway in our second game.

Scotland v Brazil at World Cup France 98
The Scotland and Brazil squads line up for the opening game

We haven’t qualified for a major tournament since that World Cup. The qualification campaigns throughout the 2000s have been full of “almost moments” – we narrowly missed out on Euro 2008; despite defeating France. We fell against Italy and Georgia.

Last night, the Czech Republic finished top of their group and progressed through to the quarter finals of Euro 2012. As a Scot, I don’t think I could possibly be more angry. Scotland had the Czechs in their qualification group for this Euro competition, and the game between them at Hampden last September was a decisive one. With 88 minutes on the clock, the Czechs cheated themselves a penalty by diving in the box, bringing the score to two all – there was no contact at all. A complete refereeing disgrace, because two minutes later at the other end, our Chris Berra was then denied a penalty and booked for diving. (If you’re interested, you can watch the highlights here, and make up your own mind about those penalties)

Scotland v Czech Republic Euro Qualifier September 2011
Fletcher rages at the referee – a penalty that shouldn’t have been?

What I’m getting at is that Scotland could have, and possibly should have been in that group, not the Czechs, and watching them go through on the “merit” of their qualification campaign, it hurts. A lot. This is also a great example of being “almost there”. The Scotland side isn’t world class, by any means, but by Christ, we have some awful luck at times.

So, England fans, when complaining about “Anyone But England”, pay a bit of mind to our own footballing situation. At least you qualify for things! It’s bitter and petty, but it’s difficult to watch your neighbours qualify when you didn’t quite make it, and on top of that, having England’s summer of international football shoved down your throat by the media doesn’t exactly make it easy to forget about your own footballing failings.

Who knows, maybe we’ll play in the next World Cup?

Later. S x

PS. As a disclaimer, I have nothing against the England squad (except John Terry, because he’s a bit of a dick) – as I mentioned above, my beef is more with the media, and particularly the pundits – I think we can all agree that the less we see of Adrian Chiles, the better!

Stacey

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