IT MAY be the heart of London, but yesterday Trafalgar Square was awash with Lion Rampants, kilts and ginger “Jimmy” wigs as for the first time in 14 years the Tartan Army revisited a traditional stamping ground.
The statue of Lord Nelson looked down impassively from his column as the usual meeting place for Scots fans saw a massive gathering ahead of the first football match this century between Scotland and England.
Thousands of kilt-clad fans draped saltires from every available surface and the skirl of the bagpipes echoed across the square. Although the vast majority of fans were well behaved, one man was arrested before the game had even kicked off for drunkenly dancing naked in a fountain.
The fountain had already been transformed into a giant bubble bath in a prank by Scotland fans who had filled it with washing-up liquid, forcing officials to switch it off.
The party mood, however, was later tempered as Scotland lost 3-2 in a thrilling game.
Police said last night that there were two arrests during the match – one for drunkeness and one for public order offence – though they did not identify their nationality.
The Scots were keen to enjoy themselves. Michael Connell, 48, a mechanic from Armadale, said: “We are passionate and we like to party.”
Retired engineer Roscoe Hendrie, 67, matched his national team shirt with a kilt and a flag bearing an image of Scotland’s sporting hero-of-the-moment, Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray, whose spirit he invoked. He said: “Hopefully, we have got the spirit of Andy Murray and that lad will encourage everyone to do their best in tennis and everything else.”
About 25,000 Scottish fans travelled to London to see the game, with crowds of more than 2,500 swarming on the central London hotspot by lunchtime.
A Met Police spokesman said that the fans at Trafalgar had been “boisterous” but there had been “no real problems.” However, two people were taken to hospital with head injuries after “falling heights” at the square.
The fixture, a friendly to help celebrate the Football Association’s 150th anniversary, was the first time the countries have met in 14 years, when Scotland won 1-0 at Wembley. The tie has a chequered history for Scotland and its fans, most memorably in 1977 when a 2-1 victory to Scotland at Wembley saw euphoric fans invade the pitch, ripping up large sections and tearing down the goalposts.
Going into last night’s match the statistics did not bode well: Scotland are 50th in the Fifa rankings, while Roy Hodgson’s side is 14th.
Oil worker Graham Johnston, from Aberdeenshire, said he was enjoying the “friendly and quite lively atmosphere. We have heart and that is what gets us through.”