IT was all the fault of big Dave’s parents. They did buy a house near a railway station.
If they’d set up home on another street, I wouldn’t have passed their front door on the way to catch my train to Mount Florida or King’s Park, the two stations closest to Hampden.
But they opted to set up home I couldn’t help but walk by if I was going to a Scotland game, which was every one, and I would call in for Dave who out of some sense of loyalty would accompany me to the game grumbling under his breath all the way.
We’d stand in what was known as the Rangers end and wait for our brave lads to thrill us with free-flowing football and wonderful goals. Sometimes they did just that.
It could be awful. So many 0-0s. The pointless friendlies. Watching players for whom to become average was a lifetime ambition that would remain unfulfilled.
And this was a period when we reached a World Cup in 1990 and our first European Championship two years later, so we were hardly rubbish.
If I hadn’t been able to go with Dave, I probably wouldn’t have bothered and could have stayed at home on those Wednesday nights.
Ach, who am I kidding. We would still go because it was your duty.
We just felt it was the done thing, to support Scotland, to go to the games, to go around each other’s houses when we were playing away and a dad would allow us a can between four. Great times even if the actual footballer wasn’t always that rewarding.
But I got to see Kenny Dalglish. Danny McGrain, Graeme Souness, Davie Cooper, Ally McCoist, Willie Miller and Mo Johnstone.
We even won some matches. The 2-0 against France on an awful night, we almost drowned, when Mo scored twice was wonderful. We also qualified for tournaments or at least gave ourselves a chance. We once met Rod Stewart and got to cuddle him after a Gordon Durie goal. And now?
There can’t be a country in planet football whose international team has gone backwards to such an extent over the last 20 years There is nobody else with as many World Cup appearances – eight- that haven’t been at a major championship for 21 years and counting.
More than ever, players don’t want to pull on that once famous dark blue jersey. Hampden is rarely full for internationals. Let’s be honest, most of the time the grand old lady is depressingly empty.
We’ve had Berti Vogts, George Burley, Craig Levein and now Alex McLeish whose second time as manager of the international team is going even worse than many of us feared. Uninterested players, negative football, poor results and no qualification. Is it any wonder the country doesn’t care anymore?
Why should we? The players, a lot of them, don’t care and the SFA clearly does not have our national team’s interest in mind.
I honestly never thought I would see the day when Scottish football fans felt such apathy towards the team. Even those who travel abroad in kilts and stupid feathers in their hats have lost faith.
They now see such trips as a wee holiday away with the lads. The football is a distant second.
It’s a mess. The recent history of Scotland is a story of disappointment and boredom. I’ve began to wonder if it’s only journalists who care these days. Put a story about Celtic or Rangers, preferably both, on our website and thousands read it. Put up a Scotland press conference and it’s generates less clicks than a piece on the Hungarian film scene.
I’ve even stopped going as a fan and I live right beside Hampden. The last time Dave and I went to a Scotland game together was when we drew with Italy in 2005.
Kids don’t go in anywhere close to the same numbers as in my day. I can’t blame them.
We look at Wales, Northern Ireland and Iceland with envy. Too many bad decisions have been taken. Mistakes are repeated by men who just don’t get it.
This apathy sweeping the nation is not the fault of McLeish. It’s those in the SFA, past and present, who have watched this malaise without so much as a shrug of the shoulders.
They have always been pretty hopeless but at least through the years they could count on Scottish people caring and supporting Scotland. Now they don’t bother. It is a shameful legacy.
I would get rid of every blazer and replace them with proper football men. But I’m not in charge. The blazers still are and they aren’t going anywhere.
And neither is Scotland.
And Another Thing
NO matter who was going to be appointed referee for Celtic Park on Sunday, it would be the wrong one in the eyes of many.
And so it came to pass when Bobby Madden got the gig because, well you know, he’s a former season ticket holder at Ibrox and blah, blah, blah. Utter nonsense. In his last derby, Madden sent off a Rangers player and awarded Celtic two penalties.
Madden is the best ref in the country by a distance. The players like him, which is important, and he’s far calmer than most. He won’t rush to hand out yellow cards and by every account is good to talk to amid the madness.
He is the right man for what is an impossible job.