​Can we snatch defeat from jaws of victory? Yes, we’re Scotland - Vladimir McTavish

Scotland's manager Ally MacLeod laps up the applause at Hampden in 1978 as the team prepare for the World Cup in ArgentinaScotland's manager Ally MacLeod laps up the applause at Hampden in 1978 as the team prepare for the World Cup in Argentina
Scotland's manager Ally MacLeod laps up the applause at Hampden in 1978 as the team prepare for the World Cup in Argentina
​Younger supporters of the Scotland football side are in an unfamiliar place right now, as the team sits tantalisingly on the brink of automatic qualification for next summer’s Euros in Germany.

We’ve won every game so far and we only need two more points to make the finals. We surely can’t mess it up.

Yes, we can. We are Scotland, there is no defeat which cannot snatch from the jaws of victory.

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All we needed was Norway to draw with Georgia on Tuesday and we’d have been booking our flights already.

But Norway won, while we were losing at home to England in a friendly. Who are you kidding? A friendly against England? There’s no such thing, surely?

Of course, older fans like myself know that qualification is only one part of the jigsaw.

There remains the small matter of how the team performs once they reach the tournament.

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Anyone who still bears the scars of Argentina 1978 will shudder at the memory.

We believed we could win the World Cup. The SFA organised a victory parade at Hampden Park before the team flew out to South America.

No sooner had they crossed the Atlantic than things started to go pear-shaped.

The team’s hotel had a swimming pool with no water, a bunch of players went out on a late night bevvy session, we got thumped 3-1 by Peru in the opening game, Willie Johnston was sent home for failing a drugs test and the manager was bitten by a dog on live TV.

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It was a national embarrassment at the time. Now, it is seen as a golden age of Scottish sporting glory.

The cost of hospitality packages for next year’s Euros will doubtless be eye-watering. Let’s hope Scotland fans don’t shell out to watch a similar fiasco.

Talking of pre-match hospitality, we saw a welcome U-turn at Westminster last week. Thankfully, the UK Government has backtracked on its much-criticised crackpot scheme to force fans on football supporters’ buses to eat a “substantial meal” if they stop off at a pub en route to the game.

How would this ever have been enforceable? How could it be possible to check whether someone had eaten or not, short of carrying out X-rays?

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Police and stewards are hard-pressed enough getting fans through the turnstiles safely and punctually without having to listen out for the tell-tale rumbling of an empty stomach.

Also, let’s not forget that his government has a historical blind spot when it comes to actually defining what constitutes a “substantial meal”.

There was huge disagreement in cabinet back in autumn 2020 when this was a stipulation of people drinking in pubs in England during the pandemic.

Matt Hancock claimed a Scotch egg was a substantial meal, whereas Michael Gove said it would have to be a Scotch egg and chips.

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All this did was lead to a misconception that chips prevented the spread of coronavirus.

The supporters’ bus plan was met with widespread scorn across the political spectrum in Scotland.

Even Tory leader Douglas Ross described it as “an insult”. To me, Douglas Ross looks like a man who is partial to a substantial meal, so if he objects to it then you know the plan must have been deeply flawed.

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