England's Steve Bainbridge gets the ball away during the Scotland v England Five Nations rugby match at Murrayfield in February 1984. After beating England to take the Calcutta Cup and beating Wales to win the Triple Crown, Scotland completed the Grand Slam by beating France 21-12.

Scotland in the 1980s: The greatest sporting moments of the decade

From major European football trophies to Olympic golds, the 1980s were a tremendously successful decade for Scotland’s top sporting heroes.

By David McLean
Friday, 22nd January 2021, 7:00 am

The landscape of Scottish football was very different to what it is today. The decade brought us the last non-Old Firm winners of the the Premier League, as Aberdeen and Dundee United – together dubbed the New Firm – tasted success after success.

Managed by future Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson, Aberdeen in particular were considered one of the very best sides on the continent and proved it in 1983 when they lifted both the European Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup.

Dundee United weren’t too shabby either, defeating the likes of Barcelona home and away en route to the UEFA Cup Final in 1987 under Jim McLean. A narrow 2-1 loss in the two-legged final versus Gothenburg meant they arrived back in Tayside without silverware, but it remains one of the greatest European runs of any British side.

In terms of qualifying for World Cups, the Scottish national football team was in its golden age, making it both tournaments of the decade.

At Spain ‘82, Scotland started formidably, defeating New Zealand 5-2, before wilting versus a Brazil team containing Socrates, Zico and Falcao. A David Narey goal, quite possibly the most celebrated toe poke that has ever been, gave the Tartan Army something to cheer about as the Brazilians won 4-1. A 2-2 draw in the final game against the Soviet Union was sadly not enough for Scotland to enter the knockout rounds.

Four years on and reeling from the recent death of legendary manager Jock Stein, who tragically died during Scotland’s last qualification match against Wales, the national side made it to their fifth consecutive World Cup, this time held in Mexico. A nil-nil draw with Uruguay followed defeats by Denmark and West Germany as Scotland finished with just one point from three games – still, we qualified.

Away from football, Fife’s Jocky Wilson was taking the darts world by storm, twice lifting the World Professional Darts Championship. Wilson won out over John Lowe to lift his first title in 1982, before defeating Eric Bristow to the same title seven years later.

In rugby, Scotland won the Grand Slam, Triple Crown and Calcutta Cup at the 1984 Five Nations, which included a memorable victory over England at Murrayfield.

Scottish athletics was in healthy shape in the 1980s. Sprinter Allan Wells edged out Silvio Leonard of Cuba to take the 100m gold at the 1980 Olympics, while in 1986 at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Liz McColgan assured herself legendary status, winning the 10,000 metres.

Other memorable ‘80s sporting moments, include Scot Sandy Lyle becoming the first British player to win the Augusta Masters in 1988 and jockey Willie Carson notching up numerous horse racing victories, including four Epsom Derbys.

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