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The Golden Age of Scottish Football

Scottish football might not be known as a powerhouse on the pitch recently; however, there were times in the past were the Scottish teams and the Scottish national team had the footballing world at its feet. We spoke with Colin Hendry about what he perceived to be the Golden Age of Scottish football…

A Century Ago?

The first Golden era of Scottish football, as Hendry points out was about 100 years ago, when football as we know it, was in its early days. Back in the 19th century, Scotland could beat all of the teams in its way – beating the home nations with ease. The team had many years of being unbeaten – and were considered the ‘unofficial world champions’. In between 1878 and 1901, they managed some epic victories including beating England 7-2 and 61; beating Ireland 10-2 and 11-0; they also beat Wales 9-0.

However, can we really say that Scotland has done nothing since then? Hendry thinks not and discusses a time when Scotland was a force to be reckoned with in Europe – in his lifetime and career…

The Great Sixteen – 1967 – 1983

These years were good for Scotland not only as a national team but also its domestic league. It had fantastic players in its catalogue, including Kenny Dalglish, as well as top managers, including the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Scottish National Team

England was riding high from World Cup success and was the team to beat, not just in Europe, but in the world. The first team that they faced on the return was Scotland – who despite having a fantastic team, were underdogs. However, despite the odds being against them they managed to beat the England team 3-2 at Wembley. That year, they also managed a 3-2 win over Wales.

Looking at 1969, they also managed some impressive World Cup qualification wins, including a fantastic 5-0 win over Cyprus, followed by an 8-0 victory over the same team. They also managed a 1-1 draw with West Germany and a 2-1 win over Austria.

World Cup Qualification

Moving forward to 1971, they had some more very decent wins in the Euro 1972 qualifiers. The team managed a 2-1 over Portugal, as well as a 1-0 win over Belgium. It was in 1973 that their World Cup qualifiers saw them successfully making the tournament, a huge feat for the team. To do this, they swept aside such teams as Czechoslovakia and Denmark to make it to the group stages. They got off to a stonking start in the tournament – beating Zaire 2-0, drawing 0-0 with Brazil and another draw with Yugoslavia 1-1. Hendry points out that despite not losing a game on the group stage, they failed to make it through to the knockout stages.

Hendry recalls how the team managed qualification for the second successive time and went to the tournament again in 1978. However, they never made it out of the group stages again, but this time they did suffer defeats – losing 3- 1 to Peru, but they managed a draw against Iran and managed to beat the Netherlands 3-2.

Throughout the years between 1967 – 1983, although they may not have had the standout success of other footballing nations, they have managed big results against big teams. They had magic makers such as Kenny Dalglish, Joe Jordan and Jim Holton and this saw them get further in competitions than ever before.

The Domestic League

Another successful area in this era, Hendry says, was the domestic league. In this 15-year period, they had 3 teams winning the European trophy.


Arguably, the most successful team in the Scottish Domestic League is Rangers FC. During the years in question, the team managed to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1971-72 season. To win, they managed a 2-1 win on aggregate against Stade Rennes; they then beat Sporting Sporting CP – 6-6 on away goals. In the quarters, they beat Torino 2-1 on aggregate; the semis saw them win 3-1 against Bayern Munich and this led to victory in the final, where they beat Dynamo Moscow 3-2.

As well as this victory, the club also managed to be named runners up another two times – in the 1966-67 European Cup Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 1972. To get to the finals they managed wins over top European teams such as Borussia Dortmund but lost out to Bayern Munich and Ajax in the finals.


The other of the big 2 teams in the Scottish domestic leagues is Celtic. This was also a great period for them too. Celtic won the European Cup in 1966-67, by defeating Zurich 5-0 on aggregate, Nantes 6-2 on aggregate, Vojvodina 2-1 on aggregate in the quarters, Dukla Prague 3-1 in the semis and then beating Italian team Internazionale 3-1 in the finals.

On top of this, they were also runners up in 1969-71, where they lost out to Feyenoord; also they were runners up in the Intercontinental Cup when they ended up losing 2-1 to Racing.


Despite not being one of the big 2, it did manage a good spell in the 1980s – when Alex Ferguson took the reins. Having been dominated by Celtic and Rangers, Aberdeen managed to break the stranglehold in the 1980s, winning the Scottish Cup 5-times in the 1980s. It was in this period that they won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1982-83 season. To win this, they managed to beat Bayern Munich in the Quarter Finals and beat Real Madrid in the finals – a huge achievement by any standards.

Further to this, they went on to win the UEFA Super Cup in 1983. This saw them beating Hamburger SV 2-0 – quite emphatically. However, their good form departed with Sir Alex Ferguson and they never repeated their 1980s success.

Scottish League Dominance

Hendry says that throughout the years it has been Celtic and Rangers that are the two dominant forces in the league, except in the 1980s where Aberdeen and Dundee Utd fought for the top spot. However, despite the clubs’ consistency at the domestic level, Hendry says the biggest problem is their consistency at the European level. In the ’90s Rangers won an impressive 9 in a row, which was the golden era of the Rangers club. However, as Hendry states, Rangers need Celtic and vice versa. These two clubs push each other, and if one cub wins without the other being there, it isn’t a proper win – as there isn’t the proper competition. It’s like Barcelona being without Real Madrid. The reason Rangers and Celtic have been so successful as they have had to push each other.

Arguably, Celtic’s golden era came when winning the double 7-times; however, as Hendry points out, for four of these Rangers weren’t playing in the top league due to insolvency – and working their way back to top-flight football again. The tainted the wins somewhat.

It might not be the most obvious footballing nation, but Scotland has had some great players, had great results and have Rangers and Celtic to offer top European footballing tournaments. As Hendry states, it might not have the same results as 100 years ago, but there have been many great years in Scottish football.

Colin’s Top Weekend Tips

Cardiff v Watford:  Cardiff to win43/20 at 888sport

West Ham v Fulham: West Ham to win5/6 at Bet365

Burnley v Tottenham:  Draw14/5 at Ladbrokes

Bournemouth v Wolves: Wolves to win8/5 at BetFred

Newcastle v Huddersfield: Newcastle to win4/5 at Unibet

Leicester v Crystal Palace:  Draw12/5 at Unibet

Arsenal v Southampton: Arsenal to win1/2 at Ladbrokes

Man U v Liverpool: Man U to win21/10 at Unibet

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