Sunglasses — Check
Passport — Check
Hawaiian Shirt featuring caricature of Ally McCoist’s face? — Check
We are here. And who would have thought that with our rag tag fun time bunch of lower league misfits we would make it this far. And before any starts throwing the Paul Rudd chicken meme at me, Don’t. He got paid to be on a show where he eats chicken. I’ve had sleepless nights trying to work out how best to counter the threat of France and England — both CM0102 monsters.
We are not the fucking same.
Its the 25th of May and I stare at my phone, ready to make the phonecalls that will make or break players. Robertson, Gaughan and Simpson are out leaving me with 22 players. I scratch around the leagues looking for anyone who could make a difference. Darren Fletcher, John Kennedy, Darren Mackie — these are all players that are on loan at First Division clubs and I cannot select. I look longingly at the pictures of my first squad…Scally, EFM, Teale…a forbidden land.
This is what we go with…
We take the flight to Portugal and stay in a small resort outside Lisbon to prepare for the opening game against Denmark. Other than Ryan Robinson getting sunstroke and Kev Fotheringham getting arrested due to a Euro currency conversion issue whilst trying to purchase 40 lilos, it runs smoothly and we are ready and raring to go.
The 8th of June comes around and we drive up to the Estadio do Restelo surrounded by blue flares and smokebombs as 25,000 Scotland fans descend on the stadium. As the stands fill up above us, we prepare to the strains of Del Amitri and after a swig of Lucozade and a punch in the face each are positively Feral.
Fuck Sparta, This is Sauchiehall Street.
Denmark look to attack from kickoff but we fall into shape and start to take some control over the ball. With a strong Neil ratio, I feel confident and Neil Murray is everywhere straight away. He takes the ball and gets loose on the right and hits a hopeful cross in. Steven McGarry makes a late run to the back post and leaps…..1–0!!! SHANG-A-FUCKING-LANG!
However my hubris is short-lived as our celebrations last long enough for Henrik Pederson to get loose in the box and shoot past McCaldon to equalise mere minutes later, and then Stephan Bidstrup fires a shot into the top corner in the 22nd minute and we are 2–1 down. And then Ebbe Sand scores…
25 minutes in and our campaign is up in fucking smoke. I’m already planning my resignation later but first I sub McCaldon and throw a pack of biscuits at him, which he palms into his own face. Scrimgour is barely in goal and he’s picking it out as Madsen makes it 4–1 minutes later and I mentally check out and go to the bar. I cannot take any more. Even a McCormick goal in the 40th minute to make it 4–2 cannot cheer me in any way.
I go down to the changing room and berate the players for 5 minutes before I realise that I am in fact saying nothing other than the word ‘Fuck’ over and over again. And then I remember someone saying that fortune favours the bold. Or fucks them. I cant remember. Either way, we play the most attacking formation ever seen in a major tournament. We go big or go home!
Home it is…
I don’t think anyone would have thought that would go as badly. Or if you did, you can well and truly shut up. This essentially means we now need two wins to get through against France and England with a defence that could best be described as shite.
We train 3 times a day until the second game, against England at the same ground. The night before we take a walk down to a local bar which had been taken over by supporters and we drink into the wee hours. the vast majority of the squad sleep in the room above the pub and I call the team bus to pick us up in the morning. I do not want to be accused of taking this in any way seriously so we decide to stop at a tourist shop and get matching swimshorts to walk into the stadium in. Its a classy move and one the press are sure to love. This allows me time to implement one of the most horrendous tactics ever commited to football. One that even Craig Levein would look at and think ‘Hmmm, bit much’. But fuck it, what have we got to lose?
The first half is a stunningly dull affair. England create a couple of chances but my ‘9 men behind the ball and kill anything that moves’ tactic works fantastically well. McCaldon is forced into good saves from Bowyer, Owen and Chris Sutton, but we go in at the break 0–0. We’ve created absolutely nothing but at this stage we have a chance. This is the stuff that Ken Loach films are made of.
I keep things steady and steel the players for 25 mins more attrition before we open up and look for a late goal. It works for another 10 minutes, before a corner comes in and Rio Ferdinand gets above Baz to head home and leave us on death’s door. I consider my thoughts for a moment before deciding to go three up top and lay waste to everything south of Gretna. We push forwards and McGarry has a half chance which deflects loosely through to the keeper. Charlie King beats Ashley Cole and puts in a wicked cross that Sol Campbell takes off the toe of Annand and gets it away. The minutes tick away and England resolve to keep the ball and let us chase. Eventually this tells as our tiring defence is split by a pass from Bowyer down the left to Ashley Cole, who pulls the ball back 10 yards out to David Beckham to bury us. 2–0.
There is a very very faint hope that we can get through with a miracle result against France. We need to win by 4 goals and hope that Denmark lose by 4. This isn’t blind optimism, it is absolute realism. We can do this!
We get a trip to Porto for our final game against France, and we dress in full braveheart paint. We are here to create the greatest miracle since Fat Freank took out 170 in the final leg of the Gorebridge Darts championship to beat Pete the Butcher. We set out in the most attacking formation seen since the last time I did it and walk out onto the pitch as champions. Because to get a team like this this far is nothing short of a miracle.
We kick off and immediately Zizou comes forward and stings a shot that McCaldon does well to tip away. Trezeguet then comes forwards in a similar vein but Archie stops him in his tracks with a thundering challenge that sends the supporters wild. Another chance for Zidane after 15 minutes puts me in mind of the Alamo but wait….we’re away and Barry Lavety has the chance…wide! A great chance for us to score against the run of play passed by.
A strange thing happens. Our tactics actually begin to work. Yes France create chances but we actually come into the game more and start to create chances. Annand has a header saved and McCormick volleys over from 10 yards, while Zidane reaches has 4 shots in the first half alone that McCaldon is equal to. If he was better more than once every 3 games who might actually be useful. On the stroke of half-time, Annand gets a yard of space again and shoots and sends Barthez scrambling to tip wide. The corner comes in and drops to Wilson on the edge of the box….BEEP. Half-Time. Cheers Ref you prick.
At this stage out qualification dream is over. Denmark are ahead and that pretty much ends it. But I tell the boys to do something special, or else just all get fucking sent off because to be 0–0 with this formation is fucking criminal. They go back out and look raring to go until Sagnol takes out McCormick with an elbow in the 48th minute and gets a red card!
‘This is it!’ I yell to the players and turn to the stands to tell the fans to lift us. I see EFM and Scally at the front of the stand and wave to them, wishing they were on the pitch as I turn round to see Charlie King Cruyff-turn himself inside out and fall over.
It’s end to end stuff as Eddie Annand has another couple of shots saved and McCaldon brilliantly denies an Agathe howitzer from 35 yards. I bring on Brebner for the ineffectual McCormick and wave the boys forwards. We are getting something out of this stupid fucking game. An attack breaks down in the 79th minute and a long ball over our midfield finds Trezeguet cutting in from the left hand side. He shapes past Archie and curls one…just beyond the far post!
McCaldon runs for the ball and fires it out to Burke who drives down the right but is heavily tackled into touch. Jim Sherry sprints over and takes a quick throw down the line to the right hand side of the penalty area to a shifting Barry Lavety. He holds the ball up with his back to goal…before twisting back to his right and round the defender and hitting a low shot…UNDER BARTHEZ AND IN!! FUCK ME WE ARE WINNING!
The final 5 minutes are torture as crosses rain down on our box. Marlet, Trezeguet and Pires all have half chances but we charge down anything that moves like its Bannockburn, only with more limbs. I look to the stands and see the 30000 scottish fans collectively biting their nails as a final cross from Dabo comes in…Zidane!?!?
Full-Time. We’ve done it.
(Edit: We didn’t fucking do it. I’m raging at how badly we did but beating France with that formation is 14 shades of mental)