Archie Gemmill

And finally… THAT goal

June 11, 1978

YOU didn’t think we’d miss this out, did you?

Never mind science, world firsts and Lager Lovelies. It’s a moment which defies classification but says a lot about Scots.

We all remember it. World Cup Argentina, the dying embers of the group stages. Scotland were a goal up against the Netherlands but had to win by three.

The ball broke to Archie Gemmill. He rode a challenge from football common sense, a swivel of the hips took him past the balance of probability. He nutmegged the normal course of events and then, as stark reality rushed out to close him down, chipped the ball over the bounds of possibility and into the net.

We went temporarily mad. Tartan tumult on the terraces.

We were going through to the next round. We only needed one more goal. Easy! We were the football master race.

If there’s an iconic Scottish moment, then surely that was it.

But it turned out to be iconic in a way only Scots understand. It’s our talent to find something to treasure and celebrate amid utter disaster.

Archie Gemmill’s goal (Colorsport / REX Shutterstock)

Ally MacLeod’s team set off after a Hampden lap of honour. The procession to Prestwick was lined with cheering crowds hailing the conquering heroes.

It might have seemed, to an outsider, overconfidence to celebrate victory before the tournament. But do you think we’re stupid? We didn’t do that without good reason. Oh no.
We’d been convinced by Andy Cameron’s chart hit Ally’s Tartan Army, which contained the lyric: “And we’ll really shake them up when we win the Wur-ruld Cup”. It even rhymed!

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, we might have done a wee bit more homework on the other members of our group.

We failed to recognise Peru might be any good. They’d only been in the South American qualifying group. Y’know – Brazil and those other duds. We lost 3-1.

The only thing we knew about Iran was it used to be called Persia. They make rugs. No rug-maker would be able to face up to Joe Jordan with his teeth out.

We drew 1-1, but only because one of their players kindly scored an own goal.
Hands were wrung, laments were sung. If you listened carefully, you could hear the knives being sharpened for Ally.

But then we came out and played like world-beaters against the Dutch. Archie scored that goal and the dream was back on. We’d only been kidding, giving the other teams a wee starty.

It lasted three minutes. Johnny Rep arrowed a 30-yarder past Alan Rough to rip the dream apart. We’d come so close again. Messed up again. Failed again.

But, and this is the important bit, in the end, none of that bad stuff matters.

Failure isn’t what we think of when ’78 is mentioned.

Sanjeev Kohli reveals his top Scottish moment!

Still Game star Sanjeev Kohli reveals his choice for the Top 100 Iconic Scottish Moments, and it's a good'un!

Posted by The Sunday Post on Tuesday, 29 September 2015

We remember that wee Archie produced an amazing, against-all-odds few seconds of sublime, swaggering football. The legends had come true – we were kings of the world, gods of the game.

It’s a national trait. When you get enough Scots together they could find something to celebrate in disaster, dismay and the breaking of the world.

There’s no people as resilient as the Scots. We are endlessly resourceful, brave and inventive. Whatever happens, whatever befalls us, you can’t keep us down.

We’ll come up fighting, we’ll come up with a brilliant solution or we’ll come up laughing.

There is a pride within us, a fire that can never be beaten out.

The way we remember Archie’s goal is proof of that.

And these 100 Moments prove it too.

But if you’re a Scot yourself, you don’t need it proved – it’s in your blood.