It’s 1978. When I’m not obsessing over ponies I am hand drawing my own newspapers – Cat Has Kittens! World Exclusive! I am probably a little bit in love with Alan Rough and if there is one certainty in my 11 year-old life it is that Scotland are going to win the World Cup.
William Wordsworth might have had the French revolution in mind when he wrote:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.
For me though, it can just as easily be applied to that glorious year when an entire nation allowed itself to be swept along on a heady cocktail of football fanaticism, hubris and silly, giddy joy.
We could do with a bit of that in our lives right now, couldn’t we? Maybe Euro 2020 will be our moment.
Usually when people write about Scotland’s misadventures at the World Cup in Argentina it’s portrayed as a tragedy, or a farce if they’re feeling charitable.
I was too young to understand the disgrace of it all – Willie Johnston’s failed drugs test, the defeat by Peru, the draw with Iran. I was oblivious to Ally MacLeod’s catastrophic errors of judgement and the boos as the squad slinked home without even reaching the knockout stages.
But you can’t let disappointment eat away at you when the last summer holidays before big school are stretched out enticingly in front of you, can you? You lick your wounds, you put away your Panini sticker album and you get right back out there.
The euphoria though. I’ve never forgotten that.
The Scotland squad were everywhere in the months leading up to the tournament. On beer mats, on Blue Peter, on adverts for cars and carpets and banks and greetings cards. It was brilliant.
Rod Stewart, perpetrator of the official song Ole Ola, flew in by helicopter to visit the team at the Dunblane Hydro.
Imagine it. Real gods. If not walking among us at least crouching beneath the downwash of Rod’s chopper 17 miles along the A9.
— DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro (@DTDunblaneHydro) June 15, 2018
I could draw you the Argentina 1978 logo from memory if you wanted. I still know all the words to Ally’s Tartan Army. And the B side, I Want to be a Punk Rocker.
And maybe in decades to come another greying crone will be sitting here waxing lyrical about Kilts On, Taps Aff.
The song, written and recorded by Dundee band the Cundeez, is one of at least seven contending to be the anthem that spurs Steve Clarke’s men on to Euro 2020 glory when they open their campaign against the Czech Republic at Hampden on Monday afternoon.
Final piece o filming done in studio last night for The Cundeez brand new single ‘Kilts On Taps Aff’ 🏴⚽️🏴 We should be good to go with release this weekend 👍🏻😃☀️@ScotlandNT 🏴⚽️🏴#EURO2020 #TartanArmy #Scotland #KiltsOnTapsAff #TarbeachRecords pic.twitter.com/XH4CzXZzHR
— Gary Robertson (@DundeePoet) May 28, 2021
That’s the game at which the Scotland players will now be taking a knee, following a Friday afternoon U-turn and one of the few sour notes to emerge from the build-up.
A message from Scotland Men's Head Coach Steve Clarke and captain Andy Robertson.https://t.co/xYisBbKH68
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 11, 2021
We might not be at Ally MacLeod levels of fever pitch yet but my esteemed colleagues on the sports desk are making uncharacteristically optimistic predictions about maybe even getting beyond the first round this time.
And not just the St Johnstone supporters.
And once again, it’s brilliant.
No one’s even mentioned the words “mathematically possible” yet. But if it’s statistics you’re after, here are a couple.
Scotland haven’t qualified for the Euros since 1996. The last major tournament was the World Cup in France in 1998.
I have workmates – actual grownass adults – who weren’t born the last time the national side competed on the highest stage.
Throw in a year-long postponement due to Covid and the first Euros in the UK in a quarter of a century and no wonder even the dourest among us are willing to chance a little enthusiasm, maybe even dare to dream the impossible dream.
Dreams to dust but what a time we had
There’s a documentary on the BBC iPlayer at the moment, called Scotland 78: a Love Story.
It features nostalgic interviews with members of the Tartan Army who sold their businesses and worked their passage on cargo ships to get to Argentina.
Others dug a four mile trench on the Knoydart peninsula to connect their village to a television aerial for the first time so they could watch the matches.
There are also moments of heartbreak as Ally MacLeod’s children recall their father becoming a hate figure when all those high hopes he had stoked crashed and burned.
He quit as Scotland manager soon after the World Cup, died following a battle with Alzheimers in 2004 and it was another 11 years before he was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.
I wish I’d been able to tell him how happy he’d made me and how much that time still means to me, more than 40 years on.
Scotland didn’t win the World Cup. I didn’t marry Alan Rough, or become an Olympic showjumper. But the little girl who drew her own newspapers did get a foot on the ladder in journalism – without a university education or friends in high places – and here I am; nobody’s rumbled me yet.
Sometimes good things happen if you go out there and give it your best shot is the clumsy point I’m trying to make.
And if the most that comes out of this Euro 2020 tournament is that some little kids get to have the time of their lives, I will be there cheering from the rooftops.