“It’s over,” said the BBC commentator Liam McLeod in the fourth minute of injury time against Liechtenstein. He was referring to Barry Robson’s free kick but he could just as well have been talking about our campaign: over, before it began.
I said last week that Lithuania was a must-win game – and we didn’t win it. We did, however, put in a solid performance: most of the possession was Scotland’s, the Lithuanians had to resort to frequent niggly fouls, and though they did have a few chances, that’s inevitable when you’re playing east of Portobello.
But we didn’t score, and never really looked like scoring, so after Friday I was disappointed – though I think Levein’s tactics were spot-on. We just lacked that something special, and when you don’t have that, you need luck, and we didn’t have that either.
Tuesday night was supposed to be a formality. “No easy games in international football,” was the mantra drilled into every Scottish fan when the other Craig, Brown, was our manager. But come on, a home game against a principality? Even Fife’s a kingdom. There were more people watching inside Hampden than there are in that wee tax haven between Austria and Switzerland. Sorry, Craig – they’re way below the Faroes in the FIFA rankings and we demolished them last time they visited. In fact, looking at the FIFA rankings, we’ve only ever faced two teams ranked worse – Malta and San Marino. For a country hopeful of qualification, this should have been an easy game.
I didn’t stay up to watch the match. Frankly, I didn’t fancy getting up at 3am on a school night to watch a grainy, intermittent internet feed of a game that was sure to be shite no matter what the result – either we’d struggle because we’re rubbish or we’d hump them and it’s boring. Sportscene in the morning was my plan, courtesy of uknova.com.
When I woke up, I had 25 emails. “This can’t be good,” I thought.
But it was good. A 97th minute winner! My first reaction: “Ya beauty!” My second reaction: “Just like Goughy in Cyprus in 1989!” And how good was that – I still remember us jumping around my living room, my pal Colin cracking his head off the lampshade, stopping to rub it, then carrying on jumping. Back then, Andy Roxburgh was going equally mental on the touchline; this time, Craig Levein’s specs fell off – may that happen again, many times, if it’s this type of luck that causes it.
Scotland 2 Liechtenstein 1
Had we won 2-1 with a couple of early goals and nothing in the second half, I’d have been pissed off with the result. Give me a last minute winner any day. Logically, there’s no basis for being happy about last night’s game, but emotionally it was brilliant – and the game’s all about emotion, isn’t it?
Liam McLeod must surely feel the same way. “Stephen McManus – Scottish national hero forever!” the commentator proclaimed to an elated audience after the goal. Sure, it may prove to be an important goal, but even I think that’s an exaggeration. But if he does it in the playoff…
Postscript: I learned today that Brian Laudrup has been diagnosed with an early-stage form of cancer. Last year I wished “big fat Welsh c*nt” John Hartson all the best, and I was happy to see him make a complete recovery. Let me wish the same for Laudrup, who gave me no end of joy in his 116 games for Rangers. As I would say as he was bearing down on yet another petrified Scottish defender: “Go on, Laudrup, son!”
Hartson was 34 and Laudrup is 41. If you have testicles and you’re that age, get yourself to the doctor – he’ll fondle your nuts and stick his finger up your bum, but it’ll be worth it. If you’re female, have your lower lady parts checked, unless you’re 50 or older, in which case get your boobies checked as well.