No fairytale ending for Scot abroad
JOHN LEE appeared remarkably relaxed given that he was the only Scotland supporter in a bar full of boisterous England fans. As the television screens thoughtfully provided by the Globe pub, opposite Baker Street station, began to offer convincing evidence that it was not going to be Scotland's day at Hampden, the bearded oil-rig worker from the Shetland Isles resisted the truth for as long as humanly possible. That is, for about 42 minutes.
After Paul Scholes's opening goal had prompted the first full throttle chants of "Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land" from the hard core of heaving supporters, and one delirious exclamation - "Take that, you f***ing Jock bastards!" - Lee looked thoughtfully into his large vodka (no ice).
"It's early days yet," he said. "I've got this down as 2-1 to Scotland." One or two heads turned at the sound of his accent. This, after all, was the pub which forms the traditional gathering place for England's followers before the short trip up the Metropolitan Line to Wembley Park.
The suggestion that he was being bold, if not brave (if not bonkers) was shrugged off with a grin. "There's some bars down the West End where it's stronger," he said. "Anyway, I'm a very good fighter. I don't take no prisoners..." One or two heads turned back.
Round the corner, in front of the wide-screen display, the traditional cries of support - "1-0, to the Eng-er-land, 1-0, to the Eng-er-land", and, especially for Tony Adams, "Go on, donkey!" - gave way to another chant which was taken up by a large crowd of drinkers: "Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!" All the noise was coming from a group of around 20 friends who had travelled down early that morning from Churmscoe, a former mining village just outside Barnsley.
"We're down here for the day" said one of the group, Andy Thorpe. "Just for the crack. Some of us came to the same pub for the England-Sweden game." Andy, a project manager for a revolving door company, had had a better chance than his mates to get hold of a ticket for the match, as he had been working in Glasgow at the time the Euro draw was made. But even that chance was non-existent. "I didn't have a hope," he said.
It turned out to be a win-double for the Barnsley brigade. Earlier in the day they had been able to watch their team beat Fulham 3-1 in a match where the kick-off had been conveniently brought forward to avoid clashing with the Big Match. Their long journey back north promised to be a lively one.
Meanwhile a burly man in an Adidas top was airing a grievance. "I am racist... I am racist, and why shouldn't I be?" he said. "If the Jocks say anything, it's just national pride. But if we say it, we're racist..."
Michael Owen, baby face intent, burst towards goal, then stumbled, to a general groan. "You know what happened there, don't you," said the burly man. "His balls just dropped." Someone farted. Hugely. The girlfriends in the bar registered it first, screwing up their noses.
Scholes scored his second goal. Another huge roar, and chants of "United, United" from supporters who had no doubt risen on other occasions to the challenge "Stand up, if you hate Man U..." There would be time enough to take the piss out of Beckham and Co when the Premiership programme resumed...
Scotland's supporter turned towards the bar, head in hands, but rallied gamely. "It's not over until it's over..." he explained. Within a minute, as Dodds's shot bounced away off the underside of the England bar, the rally came to a close. "It doesnae matter now,' said Lee. "Oh Scotland, Scotland..." "I'd have another large vodka if I were you, mate," someone suggested brightly.
The final result was greeted by no more than a moderate cheer. In truth, after Scholes had done his stuff it had been all over bar the drinking. For the displaced Scot, there was only the warming memory of the time he had seen Scotland play England in the flesh, when his team had won 2-1 at Wembley. In 1977. It felt like a very long time ago.
HORSESHOE BAR, GLASGOW
Passion and pints of heavy for the downhearted
HIGH NOON in Glasgow's legendary Horseshoe Bar and it's two hours to go until the so-called Battle of Britain begins. While the Union Jack is displayed on a coat of arms above the door of this famous Victorian pub it's the only symbol of Britishness on show.
Outside on the cobbled lane a battalion of latter-day Bravehearts muster as the Tartan Army prepares to take on the auld enemy once again. Standard uniform is the kilt, a "see you, Jimmy" bunnet and ginger wig, swathes of tartan and a Saltire flag drape around the shoulders.
Inside it's like being back on the terraces - a raucous, swaying mass of people and a mixture of beer, patriotism and hope that we will send the English homeward to think again. They're standing six deep at the 104ft long horseshoe shaped bar, the longest continuous bar in the UK.
Saltires and Lion Rampants hang from the oak-panelled walls and kilted barmen and barmaids dressed in Scotland football tops are pulling pints at a rate of one every four seconds. A slip of a lass orders 28 bottles of Becks and four pints of Thistle heavy. That'll be pounds 56 please. Along with the pies and filled rolls at 50p each they're selling St Andrew's flags at pounds 4 a go.
The sound system is blasting out Tartan Army anthems of bygone years - classics such as "We're On the March with Ally's Army" and "Yabba Dabba Doo, We Support the Boys in Blue and It's Easy".
An hour to go and the crush eases only slightly as those fans with tickets depart for Hampden. Attention turns to the six television screens and a chorus of boos greets the sight of any Englishman. Emlyn Hughes, Beckham and Shearer get particular abuse.
Fifteen minutes to go and the pub joins in unison to the refrain which has united Scots supporters around the world for 25 years: "We hate Jimmy Hill, he's a poof, he's a poof". The cacophony of boos reaches its peak as the national anthem is played. "Flower of Scotland" is belted out with fervour and passion. The referee blows for kick-off and it's all downhill from then on.
Twenty minutes into the game silence descends as Paul Scholes puts the English one up. A minute later Gallacher is through one-on-one but strikes his shot off the long shanks of Seaman.
Three minutes to half-time and Beckham shows he's been taking acting lessons with Posh as he dives theatrically to win a free-kick. Scholes heads in the cross to make it two.
Again Scotland have a chance to hit back but Billy Dodds' looping shot cannons off the crossbar. In the Horseshoe Bar and across the land reality bites: it's going to be one of those days.
The second half is an anticlimax as Adams and Keown put the shackles on Dodds and Gallacher. "It's all part of our cunning plan to lull them into a false sense of security for Wembley" says one fan.
At full-time we seek solace in more beer. "A pint of lager and a pint of sour grapes please," says another supporter.
"At least we're not English," says one fan grasping at straws as he echoes Napoleon's famous quote: "The English may have conquered us but they are far from our equals."
An hour later and fans are returning from Hampden. They are in good spirits. In the Horseshoe a tartan-clad girl is jigging to the refrains of Abba. "I was at the game" she laughs. "It was pure brutal."
Thirty years ago when we still had genuine world-class players of the likes of Law and Baxter we would have been in the pits of despair. We love baiting and (very occasionally) beating the English, but today defeat is not the end of the world.
Outside, darkness is descending and an army of police are dealing with skirmishes between rival soccer "casuals". Inside The Horseshoe the beer continues to flow and the home support improbably begins to look forward to Wednesday.
"Wembulee" the chant goes up. "Wembulee - we're the famous Tartan Army and we're going to Wembulee".
THE HARP BAR, SYDNEY
Amber nectar lubricates hopes for sweet revenge
TEMPE (pronounced Tempie) is a dismal suburb of Sydney whose sole claim to fame is that it is the site of the city's largest municipal rubbish tip. But, in the early hours of yesterday, Tempe was Shangri-La to hundreds of England and Scotland fans pining for Hampden Park.
With the rights to screen the Euro 2000 qualifier bought by a Dublin- based distributor, the only way to watch the match in Australia was to head for one of a select number of pubs - just seven in Sydney - to which it was being fed live.
Hence the dash to the Harp Bar, an Irish pub in Tempe that would never win prizes for ambience, but at 11pm on Saturday night had one great virtue: two hours before kick-off, it was the only Sydney venue that was not yet turning away queues of crestfallen supporters.
By midnight the Harp was heaving with expatriate soccer fans who, as elsewhere, had paid pounds 8 to congregate around a big screen. The chants of "In-ger-land!" were already reaching a crescendo, with the occasional defiant "Scot-land!" emanating from small units of the Tartan Army stationed around the room.
Tribalism thrives 12,000 miles from home, and here was a perfect excuse for reviving hostilities: not just a crucial match, but the arch-rivals' first encounter since England beat Scotland 2-0 at Wembley in 1996. Scotland's Tempe outpost was praying for revenge. "It would be the sweetest thing," said Jimmy Thomson, a lugubrious Glaswegian.
But it was England fans who were given a night to savour. When Paul Scholes scored his second goal, they danced frenzied jigs and embraced with the passion of long-lost lovers. One young man climbed on to a chair, stripped off his shirt and twirled it triumphantly around his head, creating competing aromas of beer, sweat and aftershave.
Scotch Corner, meanwhile, had gone quiet, its residents gazing at the carpet as if searching for answers to a cruel and incomprehensible riddle. Frank Kelly, who left Glasgow 23 years ago but sounds fresh from the Gorbals, said: "You've got to understand that it's not just about football. It's about centuries of oppression. It's about the English stealing our women and raping our sheep. I mean, raping our women and stealing our sheep."
Not long into the second half, the screen went blank for several minutes, and one feared a riot. "Oh my God, where's the picture gone?" wailed one fan, returning laden from the bar.
Normal service resumed, and shortly before 3am the final whistle confirmed history had repeated itself. Frank Kelly declared Scotland "a nation with a broken heart", adding: "You never get used to losing, though God knows we have had enough practice."
Jimmy Thomson mused that being a Scotland supporter was "like a second marriage - a triumph of hope over experience". Hailing a cab and melting into the night, he gave a final verdict: "We outplayed them. We just didn't score as many goals."
VIEW FROM SaO PAULO
Sun, sand and Billy Dodds
BEING AN expat can send you in one of two ways. Either your rarity leads you to emphasise all the more your national characteristics and identification; or the distance loosens the ties.
I'm the second type. It's hard to get worked up about Alan Shearer when you watch Romrio every week. Even so, I'm up early and in front of the screen at the offices of the Jornal dos Sports, for whom I write a twice- weekly column. Today's, obviously, is about the big game. They gave it the headline "The match that brings Europe to a standstill" - it has certainly brought the office to a standstill. The noon kick-off has proved too much for my colleagues. As I switch on the TV and nervously sip my coffee I'm in splendid isolation.
The early start hasn't done too much for the commentator, stuck in a box in Sao Paulo. Seaman is repeatedly called Sullivan, his opposite number. Billy Dodds, Scotland's No 9, at one point becomes Shearer. A break-down in the satellite transmission causes panic, and brings out the obligatory references to `Braveheart'. At least Mel Gibson is correctly identified.
In the second half, the more England take the heat out of the game the harder the commentator works to put it back. With 007 minutes to go he points out that "Sean Connery won't be very happy with this result".
Five minutes from the whistle there's the arrival of Beto, the paper's international editor. He can tell from my face that the game is going England's way. "Just remind me again, which city are Aston Villa from?" It's his favourite question. In England he supports Nottingham Forest.
At the final whistle he shakes my hand and congratulates me on inevitable qualification. "Not so fast," I warn him. "The Scots are perverse, and never more dangerous than when they're down."
Tim VickeryReuse content