Dr Johnson's celebrated observation about the best thing out of Scotland being the road south clearly bypassed Trevor Steven. Life has operated far better in reverse for the former England player.
Steven made his fortune by going north. Everton may have forged his reputation, but Rangers made him wealthy. On Tuesday night, however, he will be the man with a foot in both camps.
Growing up in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Steven knew all about the sheep-plundering raiders from a country that this newspaper's literary pages recently likened to Afghanistan. These days, he lives in style in downtown Kabul – sorry, Edinburgh – but he will travel down the A1 to see if England's last outpost can claim a belated slice of reparation.
Round Berwick way, it's Rangers, not rustlers, who command a bigger historical footnote. And not the Glasgow version, either. When Berwick Rangers knocked their famous namesakes out of the Scottish Cup 35 years ago, it earned The Borderers everlasting football fame.
When the third-round draw was made before Christmas and conjured up a repeat of that 1967 contest, it tugged at Steven's loyalties. His hometown club against the one where he helped create a decade of unlimited success.
Shielfield Park has not changed much since Steven stood outside selling programmes as a boy, even if he has. Now 38, the man who played for England in the 1990 World Cup semi-final these days operates as a player's agent. Yet his roots are deep. No man was prouder to wear the three lions on his shirt, but few can eclipse the pride Steven feels about Berwick's role in Scottish football. "Berwick has always been a backwater, but it is unique," reflected the town's most successful footballer. "It will always have something special because it is based in England but plays in Scotland."
Berwick's remoteness means that Edinburgh is about as close as Newcastle is. Yet the mix of cultures gave Steven an interesting football background. How many of Bobby Robson's World Cup side could say they had spent their Saturdays at Forfar or Stenhousemuir? "I sold programmes at Shielfield when I was 12 and then I used to travel to away games in Scotland," recalls Stevens.
"The town has probably more English people than Scots, but the mix is only about 60-40. Most of the lads at school supported an English team – usually Newcastle – but because we were right on the frontier for commercial television stations, we used to get all the top Scottish games from Border and STV as well as the English stuff from Tyne-Tees, so we were interested in both. It was great when some of the bigger clubs came to Shielfield for cup games, because the crowds would be large, compared to the thousand or so you got for Scottish Second Division games. When Celtic came here once, there were more people in the ground than in the entire town."
Steven recalls with second-hand pride the day in January 1967 when Sammy Reid's goal inflicted the 1-0 humiliation – on a Rangers team which would meet Bayern Munich in a European final just four months later – which still brings a shudder around Ibrox to this day. "I was not at the game because I was only four at the time," says Steven. "Yet, the town has that claim to fame, of putting out Glasgow Rangers. It's something that never happens."
The Englishman would be unwilling for Berwick Rangers to give up their dual nationality. "They can compete better in the Scottish league because Scotland is a smaller country, whereas it would be a huge burden on the club if it suddenly transferred to the English League, where clubs at the lower level are much more professional.
"That costs money, which Berwick just don't have. But the distance would be a huge factor. When I played for Northumberland Schools, we used to train at Newcastle – a round trip of 120 miles."
Steven flourished in adversity. "I also went to a rugby-playing high school," he smiles. What better role model could The Borderers have?Reuse content