Not long now until the start of World Cup 2010 and, as ever, I’m very much looking forward to it. I love the World Cup. But I have sensed over recent weeks that not everyone does. I started thinking about why I liked it so much and many, many memories flooded back. I thought I’d scribble them all down. A rare lump of autobiography here, but hey, it’s the World Cup.


Understand this spotty youths, you didn’t always get a lot of football on the TV. The occasional international, a Cup Final or two but nothing like the blanket coverage we get now. Therefore, in the 70’s and 80’s a World Cup was like finding an oasis in the desert. Suddenly, every day was live football day until, the sad day after the final when it’s all over. Lost and alone, 4 years never seemed so long.

The World Cup, especially when Scotland played, was always a big enough deal that house rules changed too. Curtains were closed to lock out the harsh summer sun and the couch was actually swung round to get a better view of the TV. I kid you not, we moved furniture for the World Cup, that’s how much we cared.

One other aspect to consider. As a young boy I was an avid collector of information and stuff. When I went on holidays I would always return with bags of leaflets, postcards whatever. The World Cup is an information burst, you get a wallchart, you collect scores, scorers, brilliant. And don’t get me started on the Panini stickers… (unless you have Kenny Dalglish in which case I’ll swap you for a Johnny Rep and an Alan Rough).

The Early Years

I was born in 1970 so youth robbed me of memories of my first two World Cups. 1970 was obviously a cracker and 1974 was great for the Cruyff turn alone. A great attempt from the Scots too, still I think the first team to get punted out without losing a game. Only us.


Cordoba, 3rd June. Many thousands of miles away, I was 8 and at my Auntie’s house in Mayfield, cross-legged in front of the TV. This was it. My first World Cup game and Scotland were in it. And you know what? We were going to win the whole thing too. Brill. Ok, so that was a bit ridiculous, but if you look back at the squad, it would certainly make the current crop of players look like Whitehill Welfare.

The youthful expectations were further reinforced by Joe Jordan putting us in the lead and much celebration ensuing. Only to come back down to earth with first an equaliser, then a missed penalty and then Peru taken control of the game and winning 3-1.

I can’t lie. I cried the tears of the destroyed dreams of youth. Weren’t we supposed to win? Sure someone said that.

I don’t really remember much about the Iran game. Which probably sums it up very well. Suffice to say, we drew and didn’t manage to score a goal ourselves.

The Holland game has long since moved into legend. Snatching glory inside the jaws of defeat. Not an easy thing to do but we managed it. A game remembered for Archie Gemmell’s goal but the memory that has lasted the 32 intervening years is what happened when Archie stepped up ( that’s what you do with penalties, you “step up” ) to take a penalty. I remember very vividly my Mum running to hide in the kitchen. She couldn’t take the tension. She didn’t care about the football, she was entirely worried about how much I would cry if he missed. She was great my Mum. Luckily, he scored and I didn’t cry but, have to admit, I nearly am now as I type.

Let’s not forget how great the Dutch were in that World Cup and the final itself was quite a spectacle. Can vividly remember the enormous amount of paper they scattered on the pitch at the start. Messy business, not unlike Mario Kempes’ hair.


Probably my favourite World Cup. Here’s why. Scotland did their usual. We horsed New Zealand, got stuffed by Brazil and conspired to lose an eminently winnable game against the USSR (remember them kids?), thank you Messrs Hansen and Miller. The Brazil game was obviously the big one, best team on earth (ignoring forthcoming results) facing up to some of the best perms ever. And we even had the audacity to take the lead. I had a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk for half time. Then up stepped the most unlikely long range shooting demon, Dave Narey, to rattle one in the onion bag. Cue living room hysteria. When it settled down, I took my chance “So, does that mean I can have my chocolate now?”

But the Scotland fun isn’t really the main event for me in 1982. Half way through the competition or, to be absolutely precise, just after Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking came on for England against Spain, we left the house to go to Majorca on holiday. So, I spent the remainder of the World Cup in the host country.

Even better news was that hotel we were staying in had a small cinema (it may not have been that grand, I was 12 and from Wester Hailes, it looked like the Kodak Theatre to me) and it showed all the games. Between that and the Phoenix machine, my holiday was pretty much perfect. Unbelievably, Marvo the Memory Man can remember the name of the hotel we stayed in, here is what Trip Advisor thinks about it now.

In that very hotel, I watched with amazement as Italy beat Brazil in the semi final. That particular Brazil team were astonishingly good and really shouldn’t have lost but they had their pockets picked by the deadly finishing of Paolo Rossi.

The second semi-final was a sublime French team against Harald Schumacher‘s German shock troops. It was at night and we were at this bar ( go memory boy! I also learned to swim in the pool there ). I didn’t get to watch the game, but as the night wore on, more and more people were wandering inside to the bar, drawn to the match unfolding on the TV. Getting to hang about in a busy, loud bar at 12 was enough of a novelty in itself but hearing the screaming and mayhem when Battiston got clattered was something else entirely, very memorable and still one of the worst refereeing decisions ever. Schumacher should also not be forgiven for his hair.

The night of the final arrived and using some weird “we’re on holiday” rule, I didn’t get to watch the final. We ate out and were walking round some marina or other when I couldn’t take not knowing any more. Yes kids, no Internet on phones, like, what’s that all about? I took the plunge and approached some people outside a bar to get the latest score. Unbelievably, I managed to find a couple of large German gentleman who answered me with a very robotic sounding “Italy are leading two zero”.  Presumably Marco Tardelli had only just done his mad celebration. I scurried off.

That was 1982. Fab. Don’t worry, the detail level will paradoxically reduce the nearer I get to the present day.


This is where the Scotland part of the story starts to go downhill and qualifying alone was our glory. If your only real highlight is Gordon Strachan mocking himself for being small you know you are not primed for the heights of sporting achievement. That said, as we approach our third game against Uruguay, the elusive second round qualification was still in sight. We settled down to watch the match on a very sunny evening. My Mum, no longer concerned about any impending tearage was outside washing the car. After a minute, a crazy Uruguayan halved Gordon Strachan and got sent off. Playing against 10 men for 90 minutes, surely? I ran to the window and shouted downstairs to my Mum to let her in on the impending glory. She was right to appear unmoved. We drew 0-0 and were on our way home again. That’s what you get for starting with Paul Sturrock up front. And they say Sir Alex Ferguson is the best on the business? Which, of course, he is, but perhaps not then, tough assignment.

The memories of this World Cup started before it started. I watched the game against Wales on my black and white portable in my room. It was the night Jock Stein died. I also remember being allowed to watch the play-off against Australia which followed in English at school. A rare moment of football related pleasure at Heriots.

The stand out game for me was between France and Brazil. France had the glorious midfield of Fernandez, Giresse, Tigana and Platini. They would have been an amazing team if they had any decent strikers. Again, I watched it in my room with my girlfriend at the time. It ended with France winning in a dramatic penalty shoot-out, great game and notable enjoying it with a girl. How does that work then?

Of course, most readers will remember 1986 for the Hand of God goal but I remember that game more for how startling Maradona was at his best. The 1986 final was good too, a resilient German team getting back to 2-2 before the better Argentinians finally triumphed. Karl-Heinze Rummenigge scored for Germany, he had been a bit of an overhead kick idol. A skill I never did any good at, despite a forest of bruises and bumps.


If Scotland had been fairly poor in 1986, a Peru-like defeat to Costa Rica marked 1990 as another glad just to be there moment. What we would give for that now. Least said about Scotland the better. My 20 year old self was more ready for the horrors on show so wasn’t quite a bewildered as Murdo Macleod was by the end of it.

1990 was the year when, as a Scotland fan, you either got drawn into England’s performances or not. I have to say I did. There were some great games and an awful lot of luck before the eventual defeat on penalties to Germany.

If you want to look for something bad about the World Cup then the 1990 Final pretty much sums up all up. Yes, I’m mainly talking about you, Jurgen.


No Scotland in the USA and after such a long run of appearances that was a bit of a shock. But the highlight was all Scottish, Ireland beating Italy was made in Glasgow.

The main memory was undoubtedly my first ever attempt at Fantasy Football with a startlingly well run competition in my work. It started with a hilarious auction of the players, presided over by the peerless mcgenius. My only tactic was to buy the German goalkeeper, Bodo Illgner. Which I did, to the detriment of the rest of my team.


1997 had not been a good year. Very much hope never to have another like it. So, the return of Scotland to the World Cup and starting against the holders Brazil had to be made special. I made a particular point of watching the game with my Dad so I took the unprecedented step of watching the game with him in the only/worst pub in Wester Hailes. Just to wind my Dad up a bit, I turned up to go to the pub wearing a Brazil shirt. It caused a fair amount of hilarity and, as expected, we lost.

I didn’t see much of the rest of 1998 World Cup. What I did see was brief glimpses of games on small portables in Ward 1 of the Sick Kids. I managed to get a TV to myself for the Scotland game against Morocco. I wish I hadn’t. Watching Scotland lose so badly at that time was particularly bad. Not a great time generally. I vividly remember trying to watch the England Vs Argentina game on a small TV on the other side of the ward. Surreal.

A special mention goes to Denis Bergkamp for his goal against Argentina. Still one of my favourites ever.


I’m bored myself now, so let’s speed this up a bit.  Despite being the nearest in time, I struggle to have too many vivid memories of these World Cups. Suppose it shows that when you’re enjoying live, you don’t need things like football to pick up you. Obviously, a continued lack of Scottish presence doesn’t help.


So, what of this year? I’m really looking forward to it. If the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Torres do the business it should be very good. Also, my daughter is 6. This could be the first World Cup she remembers. So the cycle continues. Better get some Dairy Milk for half time.

( and all this just to avoid watching Britain’s Got Talent, sheesh )