Archie Gemmill v Holland 1978
Archie Gemmill v Holland 1978
Archie Gemmill v Holland 1978

Scotland in the 1970s: The greatest sporting moments of the decade

Scottish sport got off to a bang at the start of the decade with the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

In July 1970, the capital welcomed more than 2,000 athletes from 41 nations with competitors and supporters of all creeds descending on the city for the two-week sporting extravaganza, dubbed the “Friendly Games”.

Attending the Games for the first time was Her Majesty The Queen, who watched as Scotland earned an admirable haul of six gold medals, which included sprinter Lachie Stewart’s sublime victory in the 10,000 metres. Spectators say it was the raucous atmosphere of the Games that made all the difference for Scotland, as our nation enjoyed home advantage.

One Scottish success story of the 1970s who would never taste home advantage was champion boxer Ken Buchanan. The Edinburgh-born fighter was a fierce patriot who would enter the ring in tartan shorts and to the sound of Scotland the Brave, but was never given the opportunity to square up to an opponent with the Scots crowd cheering him on.

But this mattered little, as Buchanan became world lightweight champion in 1970 against Ismael Laguna in Puerto Rico and undisputed champion the following year versus Ruben Navarro in Los Angeles.

Following the latter victory, Buchanan came home to a hero’s welcome, with supporters lining the Edinburgh streets to toast his boxing prowess.

Another Seventies Scots sports star who wore his nationality on his sleeve, or rather his head, was Jackie Stewart.

Competing with the Stewart tartan across his race helmet, the Formula One legend won two world championships during the decade, in 1971 and 1973, adding to his earlier success in 1969, and was the most successful British racing driver by that measure until the emergence of Lewis Hamilton.

It was a memorable decade for Scottish football, with the likes of Celtic, Rangers and Hibs performing regularly in the top European competitions.

Unable to match their legendary performance versus Inter Milan three years earlier, Celtic suffered a narrow loss to Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup Final, but nevertheless kept the profile high for the Scottish game.

European triumph would materialise for rivals Rangers, however. In what was their third crack at winning the trophy at the final hurdle, the Gers finally lifted the Cup Winners Cup, with a 3-2 victory over Dynamo Moscow at the Barcelona’s Camp Nou in 1972.

In qualifying for two of the decade’s football World Cups, Scotland’s national side was up there competing with the best, but developed a nasty habit of performing well against top nations, such as Brazil and the Netherlands, but less so when it came to the likes of Zaire, Iran and Peru.

Archie Gemmill’s unforgettable mazy dribble and cool finish in a 3-2 win over a formidable Dutch team at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina went some way to taking the sting out of our failure – yet again – to get past the group stage.

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