Wed, Dec 31, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Scotland’s 1976 World Cup team ‘provincials’

AFP , LONDON

The Scotland team that flopped at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina was also given a kicking by a top British diplomat in Buenos Aires, secret files released yesterday showed.

Hugh Carless, Britain’s charge d’affaires in the Argentine capital, branded the Scots a complacent and thoroughly unprofessional bunch of “provincials” who were out of their depth on the world stage.

Papers released after 30 years locked in the National Archives at Kew in southwest London showed it was not just fans and pundits putting the boot in to the self-aggrandizing Scots following their humiliating exit from the 1978 World Cup.

Scotland, the only British team to qualify for the tournament, headed off to Argentina boasting that manager Ally MacLeod’s “Tartan Army” would win the trophy.

But they lost their opening match 3-1 to unfancied Peru and were then held to a 1-1 draw by hopeless outsiders Iran.

A 3-2 win over eventual beaten finalists the Netherlands in their last Group Four game, including a stunning goal by midfielder Archie Gemmill, was not enough to see them reach the second round.

Scotland were blasted by fans and pundits alike following their humiliating exit — and 30 years on, it emerged that diplomats had some cutting comments too.

“The Scottish team, which had an emotional send-off in Glasgow from thousands of cheering supporters, was greeted in silence on their return,” Carless cabled the Foreign Office in London. “In retrospect it would seem that the poor Scottish performance was due to complacency and lack of professionalism on the part of all concerned with Scottish football. They seemed provincials out of their depth in international waters.”

Scotland winger Willie Johnston tested positive for drugs after the Peru defeat — though he insisted he only took a hay fever pill — and was sent home in disgrace.

Carless warned that at least one Argentinean lawyer wanted to start extradition proceedings so that Johnston could be brought back to stand trial on criminal charges bearing a possible three-year prison sentence.

“Both FIFA and the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MFA] agree that this further publicity is undesirable but the MFA claim that they have no grounds for interfering with the due processes of law,” Carless wrote.

Fortunately for Johnston, the attempts came to nothing.

The files also reveal that 12 Scotland fans were arrested for displaying a banner with “obscenities” about the Scottish Football Association governing body.

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