Scotland’s favorite sport is football. The nation has a love for both club and international football and even during periods when the national side has not been strong, the country has still produced a number of world class players. The Scotland v England fixture was first played in 1872 and is the oldest international fixture. From 1872 the two sides met annually until 1989, and since then the sides have met a further seven times.
The Scotland team has qualified for the FIFA world cup on eight occasions although they have never progressed beyond the group stages. One of their most famous victories was when they defeated the newly crowned World Champions England 3-2 at Wembley in 1967. The side’s home stadium is Hampden Park and has been used as the home ground since 1906. In 1937 the England v Scotland game was watched by 149,415 spectators and set the record attendance. The capacity is now 52,000 which is regularly sold out to Scotland’s passionate supporters who are known as the Tartan Army.
The richest period for the Scotland team occurred between 1974 and 1990, when the side qualified for the world cup finals on 5 consecutive occasions. In 1974 in Germany they were unbeaten but sadly they failed to progress as a result of goal difference. The side travelled to Argentina in 1978 with great hopes of success. The side contained Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish, Archie Gemmill, Alan Hansen and Joe Jordon who were all world class players and it was arguably the best side the country had produced. Despite a wonder goal from Archie Gemmill against Holland the side failed to progress out of the group returning home disappointingly early.
During this period the team regularly contained Kenny Dalglish who played a record 102 times scoring 30 goals. He attended the World Cup finals of 1974, 1978 and 1982, and in 1983 won the Ballon d’or silver award, which represented the best European player. One of the most famous World Cup games that Scotland played in was the 1995 world cup qualifying match against Wales at Ninian Park. Needing a point to qualify for a play-off game against Australia, a late equalizer from a Davy Cooper penalty resulted in the team achieving their aim.
Sadly the emotion of the evening proved too much for the manager, the legendary Jock Stein, who collapsed with a heart attack and later died in hospital. Stein as well as managing Celtic to their European cup win in 1967, took charge of the national side on 61 occasions between 1978 and 1985. Despite a number of different managers being appointed the only time that Scotland have qualified for the World Cup finals since this golden period was in 1998. The tournament in France once again saw Scotland being eliminated early as a 3-0 disappointing defeat to Morocco sealed their fate.
This current period of little success reflects a period when the nation is not producing the quality of players that they were in the 1970s and 1980s. This has however not reduced the enthusiasm for game “North of the Border” and the Tartan Army are as a passionate as they have ever been. In the 1970s they received bad press for hooliganism which was highlighted in the 1977 fixture at Wembley, when after a 2-1 win they invaded the pitch ripping up the turf and tearing down the goal posts. In 1980 the Scotland Travel Club was established, and since then the Tartan Army have been presented awards from organisations for their charitable work and their support of the team.
Despite being in a rather fruitless period there is no way the passion for Scottish football has declined and the success of the national team is always keenly awaited and anticipated.