Paul Fitzpatrick: London, June 2021
As I look forward to tonights match between Scotland and England I realise that some years just seem to stick in your memory more than others.
It’s probably no coincidence therefore that some of my most vivid memories come from years when the football World Cup was being held.
As a kid the first football match I ever watched on TV was the 1966 World Cup Final.
By the time the next World Cup rocked up in Mexico 1970 I was a football obsessive spending all my spare time kicking a ball around with my mates.
By 1974 I was training a couple of times a week, playing Saturday mornings for the school, Saturday afternoons for the local boys-club and Sundays for the youth club.
Truth be told my club allegiances in those days were probably secondary to my support for the national team.
I watched Scotland religiously in my youth, but I had never seen us beat England.
That was all about to change in 1974.
1974 is one of those years that’s etched in my memory….
Apart from leaving school, starting work and going on my first ‘lads holiday’… 74 was the year that Scotland were making their first World Cup appearance since the year I was born (1958).
A big part of social life back then was the Youth Club….. a bi-weekly haven of sport, music and social interaction.
Approaching 16 I was now old enough to go on some of the organised youth club trips, the first one being a day trip to Butlins in Ayr on Saturday May 18th, 1974.
I remember the date because it was the day I finally got to see Scotland beat England and oh yeah, the day I got chased by a bam-pot with a sword and beat Alberto Juantorena’s 800 metre record.
The day started off well enough with an early morning coach ride to Ayr and was followed by time spent at the Butlins amusement park, a mini-pleasure beach, before we followed some of the older lads into the spectacular Beachcomber Bar.
The Beachcomber Bar at Butlins was probably the most exotic and glamorous place I’d ever seen, it was like something from South Pacific.
Of course, looking back now it was a mishmash of bamboo furniture and plastic plants with a few paper lanterns, paper-mache artefacts and hanging baskets thrown in for good measure, however it seemed very avant garde in 1974.
The game was being shown on a tv in the bar and even allowing for the watered-down lager…. the combination of event, location and community spirit, made for an intoxicating atmosphere.
Every year we approached the big game against the auld enemy with ambition and hope, usually to be left in despair, but in 74 there was cause for optimism. Unlike England we had qualified for the 74 World Cup plus our team was full of top players and big personalities.
One of those big personalities was wee Jimmy (Jinky) Johnstone fresh from his ‘Largs Boat Incident’.
For those that don’t know… wee Jinky and a few teammates went out for a refreshment in Largs three days before the England game and whilst staggering back to the team hotel wee Jinky decided to jump in a boat that got pushed out to sea by Sandy Jardine for a laugh, there was only one problem, there were no oars on the boat.
Knowing Jinky couldn’t swim, Davie Hay a teammate tried to help by setting sail on another boat, which duly sprung a leak and sank!
With Jimmy sailing into the distance and heading for the North Star the coastguards were called by his beleaguered teammates and Jinky’s exploits were splashed all over the front pages of the Scottish press, with most pundits calling for him to be sanctioned and dropped.
In the end Jinky had the last laugh.
95,000 fans watched Scotland win 2-0 that day.
Jinky gave a man of the match performance and famously gave the V sign to the press after the game.
The punters in the Beachcomber went mental at the final whistle and nobody wanted to leave that bar except the coach driver.
On the way home I sat beside a girl I’d known since I was 7 years old who was not in the best form as she was having major boyfriend trouble.
He was a few years older than us and a renowned psycho.
As far as her friends and family were concerned she’d finally come to her senses as she wanted to break up with him, but she knew it wouldn’t be that simple.
I tried to take her mind off things, talking about goofy stuff from our past 8 years as friends and classmates, however, when we got back to Westerton the guy was waiting and her face just dropped.
On a high from the day’s events I hung out with my mates for a bit, reliving the highlights of the day before I decided to head home, I was about half a mile from my house when I heard this guy shouting and running towards me, he was about 200 yards away but I could still see the huge blade he was brandishing, it was the mental boyfriend…. I’ve never ran so fast in my life.
My friend had attempted to split up with him again that night, which he didn’t take well. He’d heard that I’d spent the coach journey home with her, put 2 and 2 together… and decided I was dead!
Cut forward 6 weeks…. Scotland had been knocked out of the World Cup in Germany despite their valiant effort in remaining unbeaten during the tournament.
With the World Cup over, and proof if needed that German efficiency trumps everything…. even Johan Cruyff and total football, I headed off on holiday with my family to Majorca.
We were staying at a quiet part of the island so I thought I was seeing things, when on the beach, I spotted Dennis Law, one of my footballing hero’s, fresh from his participation in the World Cup with Scotland.
Law was footballing royalty; he’d been a member of the all-conquering Man United team along with George Best and Bobby Charlton and was jokingly referred to as having the reflexes of a mongoose, ‘and the haircut to match’.
Indeed, with his spiky feather cut and gallus approach Law was footballs answer to Rod Stewart… who also idolised the ‘Lawman’.
I had never asked anyone for an autograph before, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass, no matter how starstruck I was
Before I approached the Lawman however I had to do one thing… I nipped back to my room and in the absence of a Scotland top I put on my ‘Roary Super Scot’ t-shirt, like some weird fanboy.
Roary, for the uninitiated was the rather juvenile mascot of the Scotland 74 World Cup team.
Looking back now I’m embarrassed that I disturbed the guy on his holiday when he was probably just looking for a bit of peace and quiet after a tough season, but he was really friendly and approachable and made a point of coming over to talk to me and my Dad whenever he saw us.
He was staying in the hotel next door to ours, and even asked me to mind his son on the beach a few times whilst him and his missus went for lunch.
Despite being an Aberdonian he was a good tipper and always gave me a couple of hundred Pesetas, which in 74 was enough for a couple of beers and a few plays on the jukebox where Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Oye Como Va were on heavy rotation….. unfortunately or perhaps fortunately the 1974 Scotland World Cup song wasn’t on there .
I remember a lot about 1974 as I do with 1978 and 1982, something big always happened for me in those World Cup years, 2021 isn’t a World Cup year but I hope I can remember it as the year we beat England and got through to the group stages of the Euros for the first time (along with our English cousins of course).