(First posted on Facebook, March 17th, 2016)
Scotland’s five month international hibernation comes to an end later this month with with games against the Czech Republic and Denmark although I have to confess I am a bit disappointed that the visitors to Hampden are not someone more ‘exotic’ – Japan, Morocco, Iran or Turkey would have been nice if they were available.
Strachan’s pragmatic choice of opposition notwithstanding, I blame it all on Tommy Docherty – my somewhat patronising attitude towards Denmark that is. My international ‘awakening’ began in the early 1970s around the time when the Doc guided us to a 4-1victory [Lou Macari, Jimmy Bone, Joe Harper and Willie Morgan] in a world cup qualifier in Copenhagen in October 1972 followed by a 2-0 win [Kenny Dalglish and Peter Lorimer] in the return match at Hampden just four weeks later and so I believed that this was normal/par for the course/the natural order of things etc etc.
Furthermore, twelve months earlier both Celtic and Dundee had defeated Copenhagen opposition in the European Cup [when it was a tournament for real champions] and the [inaugural] UEFA Cup respectively. Back then we had a co-efficient you could hang a wet crombie on as Aberdeen, Rangers and St.Johnstone helped give Scotland a five out of five first round success story.
In our Euro 1976 qualifying group Denmark were again dispatched both home and away – Joe Harper scoring the only goal in Copenhagen in September 1975 before himself and four of his team-mates were banned from playing for Scotland due to an ‘incident’ in a nightclub later that evening.
A month later Denmark were defeated 3-1 at Hampden with Scotland being skippered by Rangers’ legend John Greig in his 44th and final appearance for his country.There is no record however of Lars Bastrup or any of his team-mates being ejected from Glasgow’s Savoy Discotheque that night in a tit-for-tat act of retribution.
And so after the first nine meetings Scotland led by eight victories to one but by the time we were drawn against Denmark in the finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico we were no longer the favourites to win. The pundits seemed to think that our strike force of Frank McAvennie and Charlie Nicholas was no match for Michael Laudrup and Preben Elkjaer-Larsen and so it proved as ‘hyphen-man’ netted the only goal of the game in earthquake-ravaged Nezahualcoyotl.
Scotland qualified for the finals of the 1992 European Championships and Denmark didn’t – but that didn’t prevent the Danes from taking the trophy home with them after they were called up as a late replacement for the fragmenting/war torn Yugoslavia.
We then lost four successive friendly matches against Denmark between April 1996 and April 2004 – two of which were at home – so we’ll gloss over this section which, for the record, can’t all be blamed on Berti.
Our most recent meeting was a friendly at Hampden in August 2011 when only 17,582 [plus media freeloaders] turned up to see the Scots win 2-1 thanks to goals from William Kvist [an own goal obviously] and Robert Snodgrass. As such, Scotland currently lead by nine victories to six.
To add a bit of spice to the 29 March fixture why don’t we put a ‘trophy’ up for grabs? If we win, we get the Faroe Islands, if Denmark win they get the Shetlands and if it’s a draw we can share Rockall.
And finally, isn’t it interesting/annoying to note that during our post-1998 wilderness years, Denmark have appeared at the 2002 and 2010 World Cup Finals as well as the 2000, 2004 and 2012 Euros. Somewhat fittingly, each of those summers I stayed at home and played with my Lego.