Scotland v Wales Classic: Anfield blunder handed it to Scotland
THREE and a half decades on and the French referee is still not off the hook.
Wales 0, Scotland 2; World Cup qualifying match, Wednesday 12 October 1977; Anfield, Liverpool
He was the man who gave Scotland a penalty kick, when the evidence would suggest it was the Scotland striker, Joe Jordan, and not Wales’ David Jones who handled in the area with just 12 minutes of the game remaining. Not that Jordan has been willing to put his hands up to anything since.
But, according to those involved that night, the biggest mistake of all had been made long before the match even kicked off.
“People talk about that match and they talk about the handball carry on,” says Gordon McQueen, “but what I remember most about it is that it was the best atmosphere I have played in in my life. The Welsh FA made the biggest mistake they have made in their history by switching that game.
“It was their home game and they could have played it at Wrexham, but they decided to switch it to Anfield because of gate receipts, which was very short-sighted of them. Because what happened then is that it basically turned into a home game for Scotland.”
Crowd trouble during Wales’s fixture with Yugoslavia the previous year meant that they couldn’t hold the game at Ninian Park, Cardiff, while there would have been crowd restrictions at Wrexham. Liverpool, they believed, was still close enough to north Wales to still give them an advantage. They were wrong.
McQueen said: “I know Joey Jones, who was full-back for Liverpool at that time, had said he couldn’t wait to run out and see The Kop a sea of red. He was team-mates with Kenny Dalglish and he kept talking about it in the build-up to the match. He kept saying: ‘Just you wait till you see the Welsh support.’ His usual routine was to run out towards The Kop before every game and that night he thought it would be the same. But that night he ran out and it was a sea of blue. He took a few paces towards it and then realised that it was all tartan and blue! In fact, the whole ground was a sea of blue and tartan and it was an astonishing atmosphere, electric.
“It was the biggest Scotland versus Wales game there has been, although this one coming up on Friday is pretty big, for the manager, the nation and the support.”
If there is trepidation these days, perhaps even hope, on that Wednesday night in October 1977, in front of more than 50,000 people, there was only expectation and barely contained euphoria.
McQueen added: “That night we knew that if we won then we were going to Argentina and the country was in the grips of World Cup mania at that time. It was like that throughout the Seventies, but, after qualifying for 74, it was something else.
“Having sampled it, everyone wanted more: the fans and the players – we all desperately wanted to qualify. It was Ally’s Army and it was crazy in Scotland at that time, everyone was mad for the World Cup. The passion for the team was huge that night in particular.
“Ally had whipped the nation into a frenzy. That passion was obvious that night at Anfield and it was a blow to the Welsh lads. We had known beforehand that there would be a lot of Scots there, but I don’t think they did. But we had all been inundated with requests for tickets. We knew of guys who had travelled down to Wales to get tickets. We knew how many of our own pals were making the trip down, so we knew there would be a massive Scotland support and it felt more like a home game for Scotland. There were just wee groups of Welsh fans dotted around and I think that shocked Wales.
“It lifted us and had the opposite impact on the Welsh lads. It must have been soul-destroying.”
But it was still a difficult game, with Wales, overcoming their shock at losing home advantage to take the game to the Scots. They had gone into the match in the back of a six-game unbeaten run and had conceded just one goal in that time. Scotland had gone into it without the injured Danny McGrain and captain Bruce Rioch. “I remember we never played that well and at 0-0 Alan Rough pulled off a fantastic save from John Toshack,” says McQueen. Coming in at an angle on the left, the Liverpool player beat the offside trap and, with just Rough to beat, he lofted his shot towards the goal. It looked like it was going to dip under the bar until the Scotland No 1 leapt to push it on to the woodwork. It was as close as Wales got that night. “A guy who went on to become a team-mate of mine, Mickey Thomas, was brilliant on the left wing. He made it a tough night for us and we were a bit fortunate to win, but we had a few things that went our way, like the handball incident.
“We never talked about it that night. After the match we were just relieved to have got the result and to be heading to Argentina. What happened in the game wasn’t important and, immediately after the game, we all headed back to our own clubs. But, to this day, Joe has never admitted it. He says he jumped for the ball and he never knew what happened.
“Whenever I speak to Joe, he still says he doesn’t know for sure what happened! He’s not admitting to anything. It was just a decision that went our way and I’m just happy we took advantage of it”
Jordan won that 78th minute penalty, but, as the Welsh bubbled in fury, it was Don Masson who converted the opportunity from the spot, beating Dai Davies. Ten minutes later, a Kenny Dalglish header sealed it. “Martin Buchan had come on at half-time for Sandy Jardine,” McQueen said, “and he sent over a great cross and it was a terrific header from Kenny and with only a few minutes left, and the crowd completely behind us, it gave us some breathing space.”
They saw out the game and the ‘away’ support went nuts. They were on the march with Ally’s Army and, at that time, they didn’t believe anyone could stop them.
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