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Channel hopper: The Football Years: 1967 – The Year of the Scots

The Football Years: 1967 – The Year of the Scots (STV, Thursday 7 January, 9pm)

THE year 1967 was one of triumph for Scottish football. Indeed, with the national team beating world champions England at Wembley, Celtic winning the European Cup and Rangers getting to the final of the Cup Winners' Cup, it was probably the greatest ever.

Why did it happen then? When were the seeds of success sown? According to the first part of STV's new series The Football Years, it was all because of a match in which neither side contained a single Scot.

The European Cup final of 1960, when Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park, was the match in question. For narrator Peter Capaldi and a host of interviewees, this celebration of attacking football inspired Scots to believe that our natural way of playing the game could pay off.

The case is persuasively put all through the programme, which blends archive footage, much of it rarely seen, with those interviewees. To an extent the formula is the familiarly nostalgic one of mixing sport with social events, which in the case of 1967 means hippies dancing in parks and snippets from the Doors and the Rolling Stones, but this hour-long show offers a lot more than soft sentimentality.

In the case of Celtic's rise, for example, it offers compelling evidence – which will be unfamiliar to almost anyone under the age of 50 or so – of the scale of Jock Stein's achievement. Exhibit A is Dundee United's 5-1 win over the Parkhead side in 1965; Exhibit B, Falkirk 6 Celtic 2 from a little later that same year. The Celtic side in that latter match contained seven future Lisbon Lions.

Just as Stein was the catalyst for the metamorphosis of Celtic from under-achievers to kings of the continent, so the appointment of Bobby Brown as Scotland manager was the decision which led to the 3-2 humiliation of England. The first man to hold the post full-time, Brown had to deal with the pressure of taking his team to Wembley for the opening match of his reign, and the nerve to select an uncapped young striker called Jim McCalliog to take on the might of the England defence.

Furthermore, just as 1967 – The Year of the Scots examines the origins of those two successes, so it pinpoints the prime reason that Rangers fell at the final hurdle. The key date then was the fateful day in January when the club lost to Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup, and scapegoated strikers Jim Forrest and George McLean.

Selling those strikers was short-sighted enough. Not replacing them was positively myopic.

As a result, Rangers manager Scot Symon had to play Roger Hynd, a defender, up front in the Cup Winners' Cup final against Bayern Munich. "We were by far the better team and just couldn't score a goal," Sandy Jardine remembered.

Kilmarnock merit a mention, too, for their feat in reaching the last four of the Fairs Cup, where they lost to Leeds United. But the show fittingly concludes with the last match of the whole season, the Alfredo di Stefano testimonial game between Real Madrid and Celtic.

When Real played Inter-Milan in the European Cup semi-finals, the press in Italy and Spain had billed the game as the final before the final. Even though this game against Celtic was a friendly, the six-times European champions looked on it as a chance to show that had they, not the Milanese club, got through to the final, no Scottish upstarts would have lifted the trophy.

Celtic won 1-0, with Jimmy Johnstone in unstoppable form. Seven years on from that match at Hampden in which Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas had run riot for Real, Stein's Scots had absorbed the lesson. "The students," as we are told, "had become the masters".

With subsequent episodes examining 2003, 1979, 1998, 1971-72 and 1982, and most of them focusing on the domestic game, there is a danger that the series could go downhill from here. Certainly, in terms of the football played, none of those episodes will boast anything as iconic as Jim Baxter playing keepy-uppy at Wembley or Johnstone waltzing round defenders in Madrid. But 1967 – The Year of the Scots is a highly encouraging start, an entertaining and intelligent analysis which deserves a sizeable audience.

 
 
 

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