by Alastair Moncrieff
I am in my mid twenties, my earliest football memories are from the middle of that decade, of ‘cool Britannia’ and of ‘Britpop’.
In 1994, Raith Rovers beat the mighty Celtic in the final of the Coca-Cola Cup. I have no recollection of the game itself, only a picture in my head of people clad in dark blue, celebrating wildly. I remember the contrasting emotions, of joy on one side, of despair on the other, only disbelief uniting blue and green.
From the World Cup of that same year, the sheer ferocity of Leonardo’s elbow ensured that it is forever ingrained in my consciousness. That this contrasts so sharply with the smiling, charming man, who now appears on our television screens makes me doubt the veracity of this memory, but thanks to Youtube such doubts are swiftly dispelled.
The barely contained delight of the commentator as Yordan Letchkov opened the scoring against the Germans, that same player’s bizarre isolated clump of hair, stubbornly clinging to his brow long after the rest had given up and receded; Henrik Larsson’s dreadlocks flailing in the air; Roberto Baggio, alone, shoulders slumped, a swarming sea of yellow revelling in his agony, his iconic hair, ‘the Divine Ponytail’. All made that tournament an unforgettable experience.
In 1996 Gary McCallister made me cry. There was not a single, dignified tear, but a flood of all-consuming sobs. I remember a magician appearing on the television, telling me he had caused the ball to move at the crucial moment, I remember hating that magician; then he started bending spoons and reading peoples’ minds and hate turned to fear.
I remember the glorious, Tartan-patterned Scotland shirt, the uniform of a summer of football across the border; Ally McCoist scoring against the Swiss, and his celebration, where he ran to the touchline and shook the hand of Craig Brown; Patrick Kluivert nutmegging David Seaman at Wembley and ending the Scottish dream of playing knockout football on the international stage. I remember my unwavering belief that Scotland’s time would surely come. It is a sobering thought that these tear-stained, tartan-tinged memories may very well turn out to be the zenith of my time as a Scotland supporter.
My memories of football in the nineties are simple ones seeming to feature penalties and, for no obvious reason, haircuts. I have no recollections of systems or tactics, only extremes of emotion; my brain has retained vibrant images while discarding cynicism.
This is the way it should be. It is comforting to remember a time when football was simpler, when it was purer. For me, this time was the 1990’s.