Jock Stein has been quite rightly lauded recently for his legacy to Scottish Football but as controversial as it sounds, his first two years in permanent charge of the Scotland team were pretty appalling and in this day and age with fans forums and a less respectful media there would have been shouts for him to quit or be given the boot.
If you look at his first 17 games his record was pretty poor; Played 17, Won 5, Drawn 2 and lost 10. Of course at this time, Scotland were always pitiful in the Euro qualifiers and always seemed to suffer a World Cup hangover as old players left and new ones came in.
Ally McLeod had been in charge at the start of our Euro campaign as we were defeated by Austria 3-2 in Vienna. A month later and with Jock in charge, Scotland fielded an almost unchanged team against Norway at home in front of a crowd of 65,372. Arthur Graham of Leeds United who had replaced Joe Jordan late in the second half in Vienna retained his place and Aberdeen’s Stuart Kennedy dropped out for Man City’s Willie Donachie.

Scotland struggled to a late win with Dalglish’s second of the night in the 82nd minute and an Archie Gemmill penalty in the 87th giving us a 3-2 win.
In fairness to Jock, it was a difficult qualifying group with Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Norway as opponents. 1978 closed with a narrow one nil defeat to Portugal in Lisbon. Jock played David Narey, Martin Buchan and Gordon McQueen in this game and quite often this puzzling line up with three central defenders ensued, normally with one deployed in the midfield with Alan Hansen, Willie Miller. Alex McLeish and Paul Hegarty all thrown into the mix.

Next up in the Euros in June ’79 was Norway in Oslo whom we comprehensively beat 4-0 with goals from Joe Jordan, Kenny Dalglish, John Robertson and Gordon McQueen. Despite a poor Home Internationals where we beat Northern Ireland one nil but lost 3-0 and 3-1 to Wales and England respectively and a friendly defeat to Argentina with Maradona stealing show, an expectant crowd of 67,895 turned up to see Scotland in their home game against Austria in October ’79.
A disappointing one all draw saw Scotland’s hopes of qualifying start to fade and finally squashed by two defeats in a row to Belgium as usual losing 2-0 in Brussels and then truly pumped 3-1 at Hampden in front of a crowd of 25,389.
Our last qualifier saw a crowd of 20,233 turn up to watch Scotland demolish Portugal 4-0 with goals from Dalglish, Andy Gray, Stevie Archibald on his debut and an Archie Gemmill penalty once more.
Once again, our Home Internationals were poor with a one nil defeat to Northern Ireland in our return to Belfast, followed by a one nil win over Wales at home with Willie Miller supplying the killer touch. A two nil defeat to England at Hampden saw us finish last as Northern Ireland claimed top spot.
Defeats in friendly away games to Poland and Hungary rounded up the ’79-‘80 season and so to the ’80-’81 season and a World Cup campaign. Again it was a difficult draw with Sweden, Portugal (again), a very good Northern Ireland side and a tricky minnow in Israel to overcome but with two to through automatically hopes were high of success.
The first game would be against Sweden in Stockholm and as always a good start to your campaign is vital and although my original premise of: did Gordon Strachan save Jock Stein when he scored the only goal is probably a stretch it gave Scotland the confidence to move on through a very cut-throat group where the dynamics seem to change rapidly.
By the time of our first game, the Swedes had already drawn to Israel and been beaten 3-0 by Northern Ireland; so effectively they were always playing catch up after we beat them. Although we were to beat them at Hampden by two goals to nil in the return game; Sweden beat Portugal twice when we could only draw with Portugal at home and were defeated away in Lisbon 2-1 in a game that didn’t matter as qualification had already been secured with our second draw with Northern Ireland in the series.
The article is from Match Weekly and is a recreation of Gordon’s wonderful goal and you are better man than me if you can work out what actually happened. It’s so much easier looking it up on You Tube.

So was it down to Strachan’s goal; probably not as the more vital goal was scored in Tel Aviv by Kenny Dalglish as we became the only team to secure both points away to Tel Aviv but it was vital and mebbe just mebbe he did.

David Stuart

First posted on Facebook September 28th, 2015