Rod Stewart’s battle cry for the 1978 Tartan Army…
In 1978 the Scottish football team were riding on the crest of a wave, they had managed to qualify for the World Cup finals in Argentina, leaving their English rivals sat at home in front of their television sets. The Scottish manager, Ally MacLeod who had been draughted in the year before to ensure qualification, stirred up Scottish passion with moral building rhetoric around a team consisting of some of Scotland’s finest ever players. Under his guidance the team of Johnstone, Gemmill, Souness, Dalglish, Jordan, Rioch, Hartford, McQueen, Rough, Johnston et al beat England at Wembley and watched their delighted fans walk away with large chunks of the pitch as mementoes.
Expectations had seldom run so high and in true World Cup fashion the nation turned to its favourite soulful son for a tune to carry them through and whilst everyone blames MacLeod and his players for the sharp downturn in their fortunes during the group stages, this blogger thinks Rod should shoulder some of the blame for what was, even by footballing songs standards, truly bloody awful. Whilst nobody was expecting ‘Hey Jude’ fans deserved something more than; “They’ll be singing up there in Aberdeen and Dundee. Glasgow will be reaching fever pitch. Cause with a nation of five million we’re really gonna turn the heat on. Cause we invented football anyway”
Glasgow had indeed reached fever pitch, and with good reason. Their only difficult match in the group stages looked to be Holland even though, as Rod sang, “Holland without Cruyff, just ain’t the same.” Ally’s Tartan Army flew out to Argentina full of confidence whilst their single climbed the charts to reach a heady number six. MacLeod banged his own personal drum as loud as any self-respecting Highlander with mind boggling, ego boosting rants about Scotland’s assured success. It was a lesson waiting to be taught.
As the paint dried on the shelf MacLeod said he’d put up at home to sit the World Cup on, the team arrived at their hotel for the tournament. It was a ramshackle hotel in a ramshackle town which set the tone for what was to come. Their first match against Peru started as comfortably as MacLeod had predicted and after fourteen minutes they were winning 1-0. But come the second half and three Peruvian goals later, MacLeod was left rubbing the biggest bruised ego in world football. The next game was set to make amends with a guaranteed win against lowly Iran, here was a chance to give the travelling fans something to cheer about and when Iran scored an own goal the nation waited for a goal fest. It never came. Iran equalised and the match ended 1-1 with the fans venting their spleens with swearing and hand signals to a downtrodden Scotland led by a manager booed from the field.
The Scottish press had a field day, with still a game against Holland to go, their biggest sponsor, Chrysler removed all references to the team from their advertising and Scotland were left with a mountain to climb against the 1974 runner’s up. They had to win and do so by three clear goals, yet despite an heroic performance including Archie Gemmill’s moment of brilliance, a 3-2 victory over the Dutch wasn’t enough and their return flight home could not have been more different from that which brought them there. South of the border sat a nation of English men and women gleefully insulting their northern neighbours, revenge for MacLeod’s brash remarks about England and Scotland’s footballing superiority. But whatever the English fans said paled in comparison to the reception the team received from the Scottish fans waiting at the airport. The players arrived home to a nation biblically mad at such a poor tournament. Even the airport workers abused them as they left the plane before most dashed southwards, back to their English club teams and MacLeod, battered and bruised by the media resigned a few months later.
As for Rod, well, he survived and went on to enjoy American disco fame and fortune, safe in the knowledge that he had left his beloved team and country the gift of his immortal lyrics; “Germany, will, we feel, be a challenge. The Italians can still play the game. But there’s really only one team in it. We’ll be singing as we get off of the plane. We are bound for Buenos Aires, we don’t care just what they tell us. Only wish we had Danny McGrain”….
Nothing good ever comes from footballers recording a song, John Barnes England rap curls the toes to this day and as Reading Football Club drown in a cesspool of fun-poking about their new single, surely it is time to draw a close on this abuse of recording equipment and subsequent torturing of an unsuspecting public. I mean, d’ya reckon Rod does this one in Vegas? d’ya?