Halfway o paradise
With Scotland on the threshold of a new beginning with the Yes/Yes vote on devolution, the national football squad aim to keep the adrenalin rushing with a vital World Cup win against Latvia. Or does another Argentina loom?
Words: Julian Taylor
Craig Brown‘s Scotland squad is within touching distance of the great leap forward to next year‘s World Cup Finals in France — but before our Gallic friends recoil from the re-released sounds of roekin‘ Rod and the 'I‘artan Army. the ‘migbty' Latvia have to be accounted for. Undoubtedly. the nation‘s new self-confidence following the historic Yes/Yes vote on devolution will help energise the team. although given past history — namely the nadir of Argentina ‘78 — it would be wise not to get too excited too soon.
Under Ally .\lcl..eod's regime. Scotland went to South America amid a tidal wave of lofty exuberance. before the lionised players returned with manes clipped. Former Rangers and Scotland striker. Derek Johnstone. was part of the group. and he now puts the infamous sojourn into perspective.
‘Ally .‘ycheod brought us up so high then. and everyone believed him.‘ Johnstone recalls. ‘Scotland as a country buzzed so much and. although deep down we knew we weren't going to win the World (‘up it was easy to get carried away a bit.‘
Johnstone feels that the quality of the current players and the overall mood are significant. "I‘he difference between 1978 and now.‘ he says. ‘is that we had a better sqtiad then. with genuine world-class players like Graetne Souness and Kenny Dalglish.
whereas the present squad doesn't have those kinds of
individuals. They play more like a club side. and have great strength in unity. 'l'heir ability is that they have proved hard to beat. which is the biggest compliment you can pay to Craig Brown. If he can get Scotland through to the finals. he deserves a medal.‘
Phil Differ. driving force behind the satirical Only
All [1..\'('ll.\’('.') hit TV and stage series. is confident — but
harbours alarming reservations. ‘Scotland are at their
most self-destructive when they‘re at their most self- confident.‘ he reckons. "l‘he terrifying thing is that
'Scotland are at their most self— destructive when they're at their most self-confirlent.‘
On the ball: Craig Brown
Scotland‘s destiny is in their own hands now. I've got a terrible feeling that it‘ll be a draw against Latvia. with visions of their keeper having an inspired game. But Latvia are crap. basically. so I think Scotland will do it.‘
Differ remembers the ‘Ally‘s Army" era with real affection. "I‘he I978 World (‘up was great ftm at the time.‘ he says. ‘and having met Ally McLeod. he is a really nice. honest. genuine guy. I don‘t think he meant any harm in that he believed his own publicity. You can be taken in by the hype if you want to. and in '78 we all fell for it in a big way.‘
Will the referendum euphoria carry the Tartan Army into the Latvia game and. hopefully. the finals with a swagger'.’ "I'he Yes/Yes vote could create a role in sending Scotland to the World Cup with arrogance and confidence.‘ Differ explains. ‘even though the team now is a bit short of that arrogant quality seen in players like Jim Baxter and Denis I.aw. (‘raig Brown has to be admired for what he‘s done in moulding the side.‘
The (‘Iass of “)7 may be short on that traditional Scottish footballing quality — gallus — but if a win is secured against Latvia. then there'll be a smile and a song as Brown makes the lirench connection.
Scotland play Latvia at Celtic Park, Glasgow on Sat 11 Oct.
Events are listed alphabetically by sport. then by da . Fixtures are correct at time o publication, but may be affected by weather. Sport listings compiled by Brian Donaldson.
. . FOOTBALL -. Saturday 27 SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE Aberdeen v Dunfermline Pittodrie Stadium. Pittodrie Street. Aberdeen. 3pm. Dundee United v Celtic Tannadice Park. Tannadice Street. Dundee. 3pm. Hibs v St Johnstone Easter Road Stadium. Albion Road. Edinburgh. 3pm. Kilmamock v Hearts Rugby Pat-k. Rugby Road. Kilmarnock. 1pm. Rangers v Motherwell Ibrox Stadium. lidmiston Drive. Glas ’ow. 3pm. SCOTTISH FIRST DIV SION Airdrie v Ayr Broadwood Stadium. Cuntbernauld. 3pm. Hamilton v Stirling Albion Cliftonhill Stadium. Main Street. Coatbridge. 3pm. Morton v Dundee Capptetow Park. Sinclair Street. Greenock. 3pm. Raith Rovers v Falkirk Stark‘s Park. Pratt Street. Kirkealdy. 3pm. St Mirren v Particlt Thistle St Mlt‘l'en Park. Love Street. Paisley. 3pm.
UEFA CUP FIRST ROUND SECOND LEG Liverpool v Celtic Antield. t iverpool. 8pm. ()nly Steve McManaman's last gasp wonder strike prevented Celtic from taking a precious lead into this Anl'teld return match. Still. if Wim .lansen's team
; cart show the same skill and spirit tonight
as they showed in the second half at Parkhead. they might win the Battle of Britain. Unfortunately. Robbie Fowler should be back in the Reds' starting line— up to face the Glasgow team without Regi Blinker and Tom Boyd. ()n a telly near you. if you can’t get a ticket. Rangers v Strasbourg Ibrox Stadium. lidmiston Drive. Glasgow. 7.30pm. If the rumour-mongers are to be believed. this
could be Walter Smith's final match in
charge of Rangers — if they fail to knock out the Frenchmen the clamour will begin for heads to roll. Whether David Murray will take any notice is another thing. Yet. surely a Z-I deficit against the struggling and injury-ridden Strasbourg should be something the likes of Gascoigne. I.audrup. Negri and Mc(‘oist can
CUP WINNERS' CUP FIRST ROUND SECOND LEG
Kilmarnock v Nice Rugby Park. Rugby Road. Kilmarnock. 7.30pm. The experience of Pat Nevin and the youthful drive of Begin and Burke will be valuable as Bobby \‘t’illiamson's men attempt to turf the French second division side frotn Iiurope.
SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Celtic v Kilmarnock Celtic Park. Kerrvdale Street. Glasgow. 3pm. Dunfermline v Dundee United East End Park. I'lalbeath Road. Dunfermliue. 3pm.
Hibs v St Johnstone Iiaster Road Stadium. Albion Road. Edinburgh. 3pm. Motherwell V Hearts Fir Park Stadium. Fitpark Street. Motherwell. 3pm.
St Johnstone v Aberdeen MCDIarmid Park. Crieff Road. Perth. 3pm.
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26 Sep‘9 Oct 1997 THE llST 89