Just 12 months earlier, Don Revie had enjoyed possibly his finest moment as England manager as he watched his side dismantle Scotland 5-1 at Wembley. Now he was about to enter what would be his final year as manager of the national side and it started with defeat to the Auld Enemy.
Hampden Park was packed to the rafters on a sunny spring afternoon, although the capacity had been reduced to 85,000 spectators, but David Coleman on duty for the BBC told the millions watching at home that there was “at least 80 thousand committed and very partisan Scottish supporters” ready to cheer on the home side. As usual the match was broadcast live by both BBC and ITV with Brian Moore and Jack Charlton on duty for the commercial channel. Coleman had the flavour of the month alongside him, the manager of FA Cup winners Southampton, Lawrie McMenemy.
Despite last season’s result it was the home side who were expected to win out, with Coleman pronouncing the “genuine feeling is that the Scotland side is the strongest they have produced in many, many years” before revealing that “Don Revie has said that they are very much the favourites.”
Revie had made just one change from the side that rolled over a very poor Northern Ireland team the previous Wednesday. He strengthened his central defence by recalling Roy McFarland in place of Brian Greenhoff, but kept faith with the rest of his line up, a rare trait in his international management career. That meant his selection featured two players from outside the top flight, Southampton’s Mick Channon and Crystal Palace’s Peter Taylor.
Scotland were led by Archie Gemmill and drew on players from the top flights in both England and Scotland. Leeds provided two players in Eddie Gray and Joe Jordan, the latter leading the line alongside Celtic’s Kenny Dalglish.
As expected it was Scotland who started the brightest and they had a couple of early chances. Don Masson, who had enjoyed a great season with QPR, was left unmarked in the penalty area but his shot on the turn was weak and easily handled by Ray Clemence in the England goal.
Clemence was tested again a few moments later. A free kick from the left hand side was met unchallenged by the imperious Jordan, this time Clemence forced to dive across his goal to hold the header.
It was all Scotland in the opening quarter of an hour and they showed they were not all about Jordans raw power when they won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Masson and Bruce Rioch worked a clever little set piece with Masson flicking the ball into the air for the Derby County man to strike a shot which went just wide.
England had yet to get started but on 11 minutes they clicked into gear in some style. Incredibly it was centre back McFarland who for some reason popped up on the right hand side of the penalty area and delivered an exquisite cross to the back post for Chanon to bury a header past Alan Rough. “Another England goal for Mick Channon which leaves Hampden Park silenced and stunned” announced Coleman.
Scotland’s response though was instant and caused panic in the England defence. A cross by Rioch was sliced wildly over his own bar by Phil Thompson, with Jordan clipping the crossbar with a header from the resultant corner.
On 18 minutes the sides were level. Eddie Gray’s flighted corner caused confusion not only in the England defence but also in the commentary box as Jordan missed the ball allowing Masson to sneak in and stoop to head the ball into the roof of the net: “Jordan…no it wasn’t” garbled the confused Coleman as the crowd went wild.
Scotland were as rampant as the red lion on the thousands of flags being waved around the stadium. Dalglish played Jordan in for the Leeds striker to fire straight at Clemence from the edge of the box, and then minutes later Jordan was just unable to connect with a cross which slipped through the hands of the England keeper.
England’s attacks were sporadic, Gerry Francis, who had bagged two in the corresponding fixture the previous season, bursting to the edge of the Scottish area before dragging a shot just wide of Rough’s right hand post.
Scotland had the momentum, although a decision by referee Karoly Paloti of Hungary just before half time could have had the Scots thinking it wasn’t going to be their day when he turned down a clear penalty appeal. It was Dalglish who was the aggrieved party, bursting through the heart of the English defence into the box. As he tried to round the onrushing Clemence, he headed away from goal but it seemed clear that the England keeper took his legs away. The referee did blow his whistle, but only to indicate that it was half time, waving away Scottish protests.
Revie made a change at the break, introducing Trevor Cherry for the ineffective Stuart Pearson, pushing Kevin Keegan further forward. It made no real difference, with Scotland continuing to dominate proceedings, which by now were taking place in ever changing weather, Glasgow suffering from sunshine and showers by the minute.
What hadn’t changed was how much of a nuisance Kenny Dalglish was being to the English defence, who were having a difficult enough afternoon without their team mates pouring pressure on them. Ray Kennedy though was guilty of a shocking backpass which gave Dalglish a sniff of goal, only for it to be snuffed out by the ever alert Clemence who was out quickly to just get to the ball first.
Moments later though, the England keeper was to have a horror show of his own, as he was culpable for Scotland’s winning goal. Joe Jordan was the creator this time, running down the left and crossing to the opposite side of the area to his strike partner Dalglish. The Celtic man appeared to have made a mess of the chance as he hit his shot straight at Clemence, only for the ball to slip between the keeper’s legs and into the net for, from an England point of view, a horrific goal, summed up by Coleman’s description; “And Clemence’s day is now complete. Total disaster. Poor Ray Clemence bows his head in dejection.” Clemence himself was later to describe it as “the worst moment in my career.” Norman Giller on http://www.englandfootballonline quotes the keeper as thinking “I had the ball covered but it bobbled and the next thing I knew it was through my legs and into the back of the net. I wanted the Hampden pitch to open up and hide me.”
There was no way back from such a blow for England. 12 months on from Stewart Kennedy’s horror show at Wembley, it was the England keeper’s turn for a calamitous afternoon. At the other end, Alan Rough’s luck was all good, as displayed when challenged by Mick Channon for a ball late in the game, his punch struck the England man, only for the ball to drift harmlessly past the post. When Peter Taylor then wasted a golden opportunity in the closing minutes, caught in two minds between chipping and driving the ball when clean through only to see the ball float over the bar, the game was up.
The final whistle heralded a second straight win in Glasgow for the Scots against the English and this time the win was even sweeter than it was in 1974 as this victory heralded the first British Championship for the Scots since 1967. However much the home fans celebrated on this glorious afternoon, it was nothing to how they would react in 12 months time. For England, it was time to dust themselves down and head off to America for the Bi-Centennial tournament as they continued their preparations for the vital World Cup qualifier to come against Finland in June.