The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Three min­utes of glory... then heart­break for Tar­tan Army

- By Kather­ine Suther­land and Paul Drury Sports · Soccer · FIFA World Cup · Scotland · Wembley Stadium · Washington Wizards · England · England national football team · Florida · Austria · British Sky Broadcasting · Russia · Russian Empire · Glasgow · Manchester · London · Rod Stewart · Celtic F.C. · English Premiership · Derby County F.C. · Derbyshire · Edinburgh · Doncaster · Leigh Griffiths · Harry Kane · Graeme Souness · GPS · Whitburn · Whitburn · West Lothian · Gary Neville

FOR a few pre­cious mo­ments yes­ter­day, Scot­land’s jour­ney­men foot­ballers flirted with the prospect of World Cup im­mor­tal­ity.

Fifty years af­ter the Wem­b­ley Wizards hum­bled Eng­land’s world-beat­ers, Gor­don Strachan’s Ham­p­den He­roes were within sec­onds of a his­toric, thump­ing vic­tory over the Auld En­emy.

Two late free kick goals by Man of the Match Leigh Grif­fiths in the 87th and 90th min­utes sent the na­tional sta­dium into rap­tures, the Tar­tan Army danc­ing a jig of de­light in the evening sun­shine.

But in true Scot­tish style, just as the fi­nal whis­tle tan­ta­lis­ingly ap­proached barely three min­utes later, the Mount Florida mood swung to de­spair and gut-wrench­ing dis­ap­point­ment af­ter Eng­land cap­tain Harry Kane lev­elled the score at 2-2 with al­most the last kick of the game.

For­mer Scot­land cap­tain Graeme Souness, who was on the win­ning side against Eng­land in 1985, summed up the feel­ing on Sky Sports, say­ing: ‘That will haunt Scot­tish peo­ple for decades.’

Yes­ter­day’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion tie for the World Cup fi­nals in Rus­sia next year was two years in the mak­ing, the draw hav­ing paired the old­est of foes in Group F in July 2015.

Af­ter re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tacks, armed po­lice were po­si­tioned near the sta­dium and at rail­way sta­tions in Glas­gow.

A minute’s si­lence was per­fectly ob­served by 50,000 fans of both na­tions be­fore kick-off, in mem­ory of those who had died in the Manch­ester and Lon­don out­rages.

Rocker Rod Stewart had dou­ble rea­son to cel­e­brate – at least be­fore Eng­land’s equaliser.

Grif­fiths plays his club foot­ball for Celtic, Stewart’s favourite team, who had five play­ers in the start­ing 11.

Scot­land man­ager Gor­don Strachan tried to put on a brave face af­ter the re­sult, by com­par­ing his lower-league play­ers with the su­per­stars of the English Premier­ship.

One of his de­fend­ers, he said, ‘couldn’t get a game for Derby’.

He fur­ther com­pared the match to a gru­elling box­ing bout, with a ‘mid­dleweight’ up against a ‘heavy­weight’.

Had his ‘mid­dleweights’ pre­vailed for the re­main­ing few sec­onds when they led 2-1, the 60-year-old said, it would have been ‘the best re­sult of my ca­reer’.

As they filed out af­ter the match, Scot­land fans were bru­tally hon­est about how they felt.

Dar­ren McGarry, 30, from Whit­burn, West Loth­ian said: ‘I was cry­ing. We went from eu­pho­ria to be­ing stabbed in the back.’

His friend, Shaun Simp­son, 29, also from Whit­burn, said: ‘It’s heart­break­ing. I could greet.’

For­mer Eng­land in­ter­na­tion­al­ist Gary Neville, now a TV pun­dit, con­fessed he was taken aback by the emo­tion of the oc­ca­sion. He said: ‘I have not ex­pe­ri­enced an at­mos­phere like that at a foot­ball match for a very long time.’

But diehard Eng­land fan Jenna Green, 15, who had trav­elled from Don­caster, had a dif­fer­ent opin­ion. She said: ‘It was rub­bish. Eng­land weren’t bad, just bor­ing.’

Scot­land re­main in fourth place in the qual­i­fy­ing group of six.

Po­lice Scot­land said there had been 13 ar­rests, all for mi­nor pub­lic or­der of­fences. Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Brian McInulty said: ‘The polic­ing op­er­a­tion to as­sist sup­port­ers at­tend­ing and leav­ing the sta­dium has passed off well.’

 ??  ?? ON GUARD: A fan poses with a po­lice of­fi­cer. Right, goal scorer Grif­fiths ROLLER­COASTER: Gor­don Strachan, left, cel­e­brates at 2-1 be­fore be­ing crushed by Kane’s late goal min­utes later while Rod Stewart looks on in dis­may SHAT­TERED... SCOTS FIGHT BACK...
ON GUARD: A fan poses with a po­lice of­fi­cer. Right, goal scorer Grif­fiths ROLLER­COASTER: Gor­don Strachan, left, cel­e­brates at 2-1 be­fore be­ing crushed by Kane’s late goal min­utes later while Rod Stewart looks on in dis­may SHAT­TERED... SCOTS FIGHT BACK...

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