Football: Nevin has a score to settle with Aunty

EURO 2000: SCOTLAND V ENGLAND: Phil Gordon hears a Scot recall an unusual Wembley night
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The Independent Online
WHEN THE Tartan Army's invasion of London reached its zenith with that infamous, but largely good-natured, pitch invasion in 1977, the FA's autocratic secretary, the late Ted Croker, tried everything to keep Scots away from Wembley. Tickets, pubs and even the tube were all out of bounds at one stage.

Croker eventually had to back down, even after switching the fixture to a Wednesday evening in 1983. Which was just as well, because one of Scotland's players would have had real problems getting home next time.

Of all the 28 caps that Pat Nevin won, the one against England in 1986 is treasured more than most, despite a 2-1 defeat. If it is better to journey than to arrive, then few people could match the way the former Chelsea winger embraced his grandest stage. For half an hour Nevin scampered about the hallowed turf as if he owned it, tormenting England in the tradition of Scottish wingers and even receiving a withering look from his manager, then plain Alex Ferguson, for being too honest to go down in the box. But, one can only guess what Sir Alex of 1999, who cocoons his players away from the public, would have made of Nevin's manoeuvre off the pitch after lights out at Wembley.

Forget the BMW which is mandatory in players' car parks now, or even a taxi; Nevin simply tucked his boots under his arm and caught the tube back to his West London home, standing alongside fans from both countries. "It was probably a bit surreal, but for me it was normal; that was how I got about London every day," he recalled. "I walked out of Wembley with a bag over my shoulder. The crush of fans had gone but there were still quite a few, although they were mostly Scottish so I felt comfortable. But no one recognised me."

It would not always be the case: a Spurs fan pulled a knife on Nevin in a carriage one night and prompted an immediate investment in a car. On Wednesday, Nevin will be back at Wembley - for the BBC - along with thousands of his countrymen.

Five years living in London at the height of "the casuals" era allowed Nevin to see the violence that sticks to London, and he is not one of those calling for a reinstatement of the England-Scotland fixture. "It's a bad idea. It is better to remember the game for what it was," he said.

Nevin's own 15 minutes of Wembley fame was closer to 30, when he replaced Charlie Nicholas just as Graeme Souness dispatched a penalty won by the injured Arsenal striker. Scotland had closed the gap to 2-1 and Fergie ordered Nevin to unpick England's defence again.

"I was very laid back," recalled Nevin, who still plays at Motherwell. "I had no nerves, which is hard to imagine. But I'll never forget getting the ball inside the box with my back to Terry Butcher. I dummied him and as I went round the other side to get the ball, he clipped me. I should have gone down because it was a stonewall penalty but I tried to stay on my feet. My family told me television cameras cut to Alex Ferguson and his face was like thunder. Maybe that was the reason I was left out of the World Cup squad that went to Mexico that summer."

Nevin had hoped to be at Euro 96, since several of his goals helped Scotland to qualify, but he was cut from the final squad by Craig Brown. That left him to face a rather different trial by television. "I was the token Scot on Match of the Day," he winces. "After the defeat, I simply didn't want to be there but I had stick around until after the programme at night being wound up by Gary Lineker." Nevin hopes his is the BBC choice on Wednesday.