Four years later and the World Cup finals were in South America. We had qualified again and England had not.
When I think back to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina I don’t remember the specifics but the spectacle. Partly because it was on so late. I had to sneak out of bed to watch games that started at 11pm. It wasn’t perfect for a young boy.
And yet it was all so exotic. Globalisation hadn’t been invented and the way they did things on the other side of the world was so different.
There seemed to be a buzz around every stadium and I don’t just mean an excitement but a real actual buzz, a murmur of expectation like everyone was humming and talking at the same time. And the way they greeted the home side every time they took the pitch, with think clouds of ticker tape madness raining down from the stands. It was superb.
After the World Cup ended we used to tear up bits of paper on the bus home from school and then throw them out the windows and scream AR-GEN-TINA! AR-GEN-TINA!
Before we even got there, the spectacle had started, at home, with a triumphant send off. Ally McLeod’s men were presented to a big crowd at Hampden and then rode round the stadium in an open-topped bus. I was only 11 but I distinctly remember thinking: Is this normal? Isn’t this kind of celebration meant to take place after the tournament, not before it?
McLeod, of course, had convinced us we could win the competition. People laugh at that now but he wasn’t delusional, he was just badly prepared. We beat Holland, remember.
But we seemed to have no idea that Peru were a decent team and after going 1-0 up and then missing a penalty (thanks Don Masson) the house came crashing down. We lost 3-1 and looked shell shocked. A 1-1 draw to no-hopers Iran a few days later almost confirmed our departure.
There was still hope, however. If we could beat Holland by three goals we’d go through. And this being Scotland, after losing to the wee teams, we beat the big team, defeating the eventual finalists 3-2 in a game that included a goal that was to go down in Scottish folklore (see below).
It was brilliant stuff but it wasn’t enough. Once again it was glorious failure. Much more than that I can’t remember. Perhaps it’s for the best.