Scotland v Belarus Report

Scotland v Belarus, World Cup Qualifying Match
Sunday 7th September 1997

Scotland 4 - Belarus 1, (HT: 2-0), Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, 7/9/97, K.O. 14:00, Att.: 20,265

SCOTLAND: Leighton (Aberdeen); Dailly (Derby), Calderwood (Tottenham), Boyd (Celtic); Burley (Celtic), G McAllister (Coventry), (Hopkin, Leeds 50), Lambert (Borussia Dortmund), Collins (Monaco), McKinlay (Celtic), Gallacher (Blackburn) (replaced by Dodds, Aberdeen, 85), Durie (Rangers) (replaced by McCoist, Rangers, 56).
Substitutes (not used) : Goram (Rangers), Weir (Hearts), B McAllister (Wimbledon), Donnelly (Celtic)
Scorers: Gallacher (8, 57), Hopkin (54, 88)

BELARUS: Shantolosov; Geraschenko, Ostrovkski, Lavrik; Dovnar, Jouravel (replaced by Tcherninski 65), Gurenko (replaced by Orlovski 52), Belkovich, Kulchii; Gerasimets (replaced by Balashov 77), Katchouro.
Substitutes (not used): Satsunkevich, Chilo, Romaschenko, Shukanov.
Scorer: Katchouro (73)

Referee: Dunno

Rambling Match Report

Eberdeen Welcomes the Tartan Army

Its not often that the wee stadium next to the sea in Aberdeen hosts the national side. However, when it does, the town always gears up to welcome the legions who struggle there in various conditions and by all means of transport. I suppose that is quite a good venue for some games, given that quite a number of regular fans come from the North of Scotland as every game must seem like an away game for them. Hardly a room to be had on the Saturday night indicated that many of the lads were making more than just a day trip of it.

The events of that morning with the royal funeral were over and with the country starting to get back to normal again, life began to regain its sense of reality and order. Or did it ....

With ETA (that's the Edinburgh Tartan Army as opposed to a certain Basque terrorist organisation) and the Lunnainn Albannaich (loony Scotland fans living mainly in and around London) already well entrenched in a strangely posh and strangely out of the way hotel cum boozer called the Prince Regent, the day had clearly begun early for them. Regulars were 'driven' out of the place is it was consumed by kilted fans intent on liver damage.

You cant argue that they were not good-natured and did not 'intend' to drive the array of old couples out in search of somewhere quieter to eat or drink. However, sharing their boozer with the array of drunks and less savoury looking kilted characters was not what the 'oldies' were looking for. 'The Tartan Army's in town' was ringing out at regular intervals, ensuring that even those regulars with hearing aids would not miss out on catching this number.

The usual reminiscing, tale telling and general banter was interrupted with the news that Austria had scored towards the end of their match with Sweden. This was confirmed as the Eurosport highlights hit the big screen shortly afterwards. Austria had managed to hold on to the game with only 10 men until the last 10 minutes when the 'bloody' Swedes lost a man as well and Austria scored to win the match. This effectively knocked the Swedes out of the World Cup - strange, given that Sweden are regarded by everyone as the best team in the group.

The result was news that threw some of the lads into tirades into the well aired subject of why we had not been able to give Estonia a stuffing and 'what a load of pish' we really were. Worse still, worries and fears were being aired that we wouldn't do well against Belarus (agreement with Craig Browns statement that 'there are no easy games in international football these days' were being agreed with). Its true that the Tartan Army are sceptical about everyone but if you look back over the years, I suppose its quite easy to see why.

As the evening wore on talk of discos and 'burds' was intermingled with the normal rammy that comes at the end of a hard nights (and days in some cases) drinking with 'sleepers' appearing and a few glasses being dropped or knocked over.

All this apart however, the strangest occurrence of the day for me being the fans general consensus that Jim Farry had been right to stand up against the world and play the match on Saturday at 3pm because of pressures being imposed by 'those' Swedes, etc, etc. Sympathy for 'Jim Fanny' as he is known amongst some of the fans was being offered after his eventual back down based on pressure from the nation (that's United Kingdom by the way) as a whole. This surprised me even more as Farry himself has made firm decisions in the past and stood by them firmly, making him quite an unpopular figure with many Scottish football fans. The Richard Donald stand was to hear chants on 'One Jim Farry ....' ringing out, although this was met with derision from some quarters.

The 2pm kick off and late opening in much of Aberdeen ensured that those lads who travelled to Aberdeen the day before the match (does the wee free influence force some pubs to remain closed on Sundays or is it just lack of custom which means that they cannot all be supported ?) were largely in good shape.

A quick visit to the train station however confirmed that the legions coming for the day had foreseen this problem and had got stuck into their 'kerry oots' on the train up. A motley crew if ever you saw one.

A quick visit to the somewhat chaotic (and undermanned) East Neuk bar on King Street before the game, which saw STV video the pre-match 'warm up', gave some the chance to comfort their raging hangovers from the previous night before having to 'endure' Scotland again. There was the usual last minute rush to get to the game on time as the pubs spilled out.

A few, mainly ticketless, Belarussians were also staggering about outside the ground but there was never going to be a big support for them at this match. Aberdeen - Minsk are diametrically opposed extremities of Europe.

A silence and piped lament before the match was well (but obviously grudgingly in some quarters) respected and the game began. To our surprise, we looked by far the better team and our initial worries faded away when Kevin Gallacher converted a fumbled stop into an early goal. He added another one later on before 'super sub' David Hopkin came on to add another two to seal the game for Scotland. The second Hopkin goal showed some of his individual skill and has been described by several as the best goal Scotland have scored for years and his daft toothless grin likens him with other Scotland strikers of the past. Hopkin should be destined for a regular starting place based on his performance during this match.

Other notable events during the match were the soft penalty that gave Belarus a consolation goal, a few good chances that Belarus failed to convert (well done Jim Leighton as usual), Dailly and some other shoring up a defence that looks very shaky without the giant Colin Hendry there to control things and Gary McAlister looking well past his sell by date (some feel that the last decent football he played for Scotland was during EURO 96, penalty miss aside !).

The fans descended back towards the town 'tae celebrate' with a couple of beers before trains and busses would convey them back to their relative homes. Peace and quiet returned to Aberdeen with Edinburgh surely warming up to receive the Tartan Army in the last qualifying match against Latvia.

In the light of the weekends events both on and off the football field, we can look ahead to some other big events which are likely to affect the future of Scotland both on and off the field for some time to come. These events are not entirely unseparated as a victory (or draw) for Belarus in Minsk against Austria on Wednesday night would not only mean that Scotland would qualify directly for the World Cup finals in France but probably increase the 'Yes Yes' vote as fervent nationalism sweeps the country.

I'm sure Scots throughout the World will be giving the Belarussians hearty support and of course Moldova who visit 'Engerland' on Wednesday night as they prepare to cast their vote on our future as a nation (and dream of our future in the World Cup).

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