Farewell to a tragic hero

THE passage of time, and the desire to forget, makes it difficult to recall whether Ally MacLeod railed against Scotland’s debilitating lack of national confidence, or was the very cause of it.

The pain of Argentina 1978 can still be detected in the suppressed memories of those who lived through one of the most exciting episodes in Scottish football’s history, a brief glory period which saw all those involved brought back down to earth when it ended in abject failure, humiliation and recriminations. In certain respects, Scottish football has never recovered. Neither has the Scottish psyche.

What is too easily and conveniently forgotten is that MacLeod galvanised a team that should have made its mark on the 1978 World Cup for the right reasons, and built national pride to a level no-one has dared touch since then. Heady nights at Hampden and unforgettable victories at Anfield and Wembley saw Scotland emerge as a true international force. If Ally was the pied piper, we were desperate to follow his tune.

Sadly, the World Cup came a year too late, with key players just past their sell-by date. MacLeod paid dearly for his loyalty to them, and spent the rest of his life answering the same old questions about why it all went wrong.

He should not be remembered as a dreamer, but as an inspirational leader who dared to bring success, ambition and hope to our lives. In death, as in life, he remains a tragic hero.