I tend to consider the month of December to be an unusual time to play an international match so I was surprised to discover that since 1945 Scotland are actually into double figures for yuletide fixtures. Indeed at one point I thought I’d make this article into a Scotland match advent calendar, EG
1st December  – Netherlands 2 Scotland[Friendly];
2nd December  – Luxembourg 0 Scotland 0 [Euro Qualifier];
7th December – Italy 3 Scotland 0 [World Cup Qualifier];
13th December  – Northern Ireland 2 Scotland 0 [Home International]…….but who wants the advent calendar from hell?
So let’s restrict the pain shall we to the week before Christmas.17 December 1975 – Scotland 1 Romania 1[Euro Qualifier] – I was one of only 11,375 freezing-cold supporters at Hampden that night for the proverbial ‘dead-rubber’ as Spain had already qualified from our group which also included Denmark.
Against the Romanians, Hearts goalkeeper Jim Cruickshank won his sixth and final cap, Andy Gray, then of Aston Villa made his full international debut, Ayr United’s Johnny Doyle won his only cap whilst Manchester United’s Martin Buchan won his 20th cap and skippered the team.
Bruce Rioch gave Scotland the lead after 39 minutes – a superb free-kick from the edge of the box but substitute Zoltan Crisan equalised in the 74th minute and as the temperature plummeted I remember wishing that boys were allowed to wear tights. Anyway, I think I dogged school the next day in disgust – either that or I had a slight chill….
18 December 1994- Greece 1 Scotland 0 [Euro Qualifier] – There were only 20,000 in the Olympic Stadium, Athens to see Greece take the points thanks to an 18th minute penalty conversion by Efstratios Apostolakis. However as Scotland manager Craig Brown famously said [allegedly] ” We won more corners than them!” Stuart McCall won his 30th cap that evening whilst Gary McAllister was the team captain. Goalkeeper Andy Goram [I’m not sure which one though] started the game but was replaced by Jim Leighton after 77 minutes – I presume it was due to injury. Alls well that ends well however, as ultimately Scotland finished ahead of Greece,Finland, The Faroes and San Marino [though behind Russia] to make it to the finals of Euro 96. Hurrah!
19 December 1979 – Scotland 1 Belgium 3 [Euro Qualifier] -The game was originally scheduled to take place on 7th February but had to be postponed due to a snow-covered Mount Florida.
Unfortunately come December Scotland were already ‘out’ of the competition, however our old friends Belgium had to win the game to keep their qualification hopes alive. In front of a crowd of 25,389 Tintin’s boys did the business, indeed they managed to beat Alan Rough three times in the first half hour before Notts Forest’s John Robertson pulled one back in the second half. Eamonn Bannon made his debut that night but it would be unfair to blame him especially as we had a back four of Danny McGrain, Gordon McQueen, Kenny Burns and Sandy Jardine.
Maybe Belgium were just a very good team – well ultimately they went on to reach the final of Euro 80 where they lost 2-1 to West Germany.22 December 1988 – Italy 2 Scotland 0 [Friendly] – To many people [well me and my mates anyway] this game had ‘Pre-Christmas junket’ written all over it although allegedly it was to help with our preparations for visiting Cyprus the following February on World Cup business. Anyway, in Perugia, about 100 miles north of Rome, Andy ‘I’m Spartacus’ Roxburgh and his team of gladiators came a cropper whilst a debut cap was given to Rangers’ Ian Ferguson – the Tony Curtis of his day.
I suppose the main thing was that we did beat Cyprus which enabled us to return to Italy in the summer of 1990. Hurrah again.Anyway, season’s greetings to you all, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m away to roast my chestnuts on an open fire. Ye cannae whack it….
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