THE dreaded truth is out. Former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod did say he believed that the national football team would win the World Cup in 1978.
A recent biography of the affable manager in charge of Scotland’s infamous campaign claimed it was a myth that MacLeod had said the side featuring star players like Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Archie Gemmill would win the most coveted prize in world sport.
Despite widespread expectation at home, Scotland suffered a humiliating exit in the opening round, tumbling out of the competition at the first available opportunity.
Now, television footage has emerged of MacLeod making his bold prediction, which shows that he was in part responsible for ramping up the hopes of the country and the Tartan Army.
In an interview conducted by STV, MacLeod, sitting in an armchair wearing a Scotland World Cup 1978 jumper, made the bold prediction for which he became famous.
“I say things that grab headlines but I don’t honestly think deep down I’m a boastful person,” he said in the interview, later broadcast by STV in Faith, Hope … Calamity, a six-part series about Scottish football screened in the 1990s.
MacLeod added: “When I say I’ll win the World Cup, it’s not boastful. Deep down inside me ... I believe it.”
Television producer Paul Pender, whose team interviewed MacLeod in the 1990s as part of the programme looking back at the manager’s time in football, said last night: “Ally said Scotland could win the World Cup because he wanted to believe it, and he wanted his players and his nation to believe it too.
“For a few blissful minutes when we led the Dutch 3-1 and were one goal from progressing, Ally really did seem like a visionary rather than a fantasist,” he said. “He was courteous and funny when we interviewed him, and capable of laughing at himself.
“He felt he’d been judged harshly by history, and I have come to agree with him. I’d rather have the bluster and bravado of Ally the Laughing Cavalier than the so-called realism of the dour Roundheads who came after him.”
Ronnie McDevitt, author of the MacLeod biography More Than Argentina, had said MacLeod’s actual remarks came in an “often referred to but never repeated quote” where he expressed the view Scotland would be “among the medals”, meaning he expected to finish in at least third place. MacLeod’s son, Andrew, also believed his late father was misquoted, stating he “wasn’t convinced he’d ever said we’d come back having won the thing. It was blown out of all proportion at the time.”
McDevitt told Scotland on Sunday yesterday: “Ally was a very upbeat and confident character and it was in his nature to try and build his players up.
“This was maybe one of hundreds of interviews he gave before and during the World Cup and the only one where he said Scotland could win it.”