From Belgium to Brighton, the unusual places and events that touched the hearts of Scotland’s sporting stars
Glasgow Warriors head coach
IT HAS to be the South Africa versus Japan match from the World Cup. It epitomised a lot of what made that World Cup a success; the weather, the stadium, playing at Brighton – a lot of people didn’t think that was a great idea – the noise and the crowd, the Japanese fans, the standard of rugby, the accuracy of Japan and then that drama at the end.
I know if I was the coach I would have been screaming “kick the points, kick the points, come out with a draw”. It would have been the best result in Japanese history and probably the biggest upset at the World Cup; as it turned out it was definitely the biggest upset in the World Cup. What a way to finish, scoring in the corner.
It did so many things. It has taken Japanese rugby on to another level when they have the next World Cup coming up. It’s brilliant. They got 25 million people watching their next game and they are getting 20,000 people at their (club) games.
It also galvanised South Africa. The next two performances against Samoa and Scotland were out of this world in terms of physicality and they were two points away from beating New Zealand!
Hearts head coach
FOR me it was Britain winning the Davis Cup. To see Andy Murray and his brother Jamie doing that was a great achievement, not just for British sport but for Scottish sport too. To think that this country has produced two guys who can win a tournament like that is just phenomenal.
It had been a long, long time since Great Britain had won it and it brings the prestige of the sport up. Tennis is usually seen as an individual sport so for Andy and the rest of the guys to come together and do something like that was a fantastic team effort. You see that in the Ryder Cup in golf, when individual players unite as a team it brings an extra edge to things, and to play the [Davis Cup] final away from home and win the way they did was a great achievement.
Tennis isn’t one of the main sports in Scotland so to have produced two brothers at the top of their game, with Jamie one of the world’s best doubles players and Andy one of the best individual players, hopefully that can help the game because it is great to see kids playing lots of different sports. Andy’s only problem is that he is a Hibby, so we will need to try to turn him to us!
British Fed Cup captain
THE Davis Cup was the best part of the year but it wasn’t just the final. My highlight was the semi-final in Glasgow. To see my two sons playing in such a big event, in Scotland, in front of a packed Emirates crowd, in the East End of Glasgow, where they had a dearth of public tennis courts and get the points needed to win and get Great Britain through to the final for the first time in about 80 years. It was something I never, ever thought I would see.
I have been involved in tennis since I started playing aged 11 and have seen it struggle to compete with the likes of football for coverage and yet thanks to the Davis Cup we were on the front and back pages.
To be in Belgium for the final and to see them win the cup was incredibly special but I will never forget the Emirates, full of an enthusiastic, inspired crowd, cheering on a predominantly Scottish team, with Andy getting the points in the singles and partnering Jamie to doubles win over a feisty and determined Australian side, and to do it with a Scottish coach. I was just proud to be there and see that.
Everyone knew how important it would be.
I HAVE to say that the best feeling I have is when Celtic Park is rocking. That’s something that gives me so much adrenaline. So the first-half against Malmo [in August, when Celtic went 2-0 up in a Champions League qualifier], when the whole stadium was rocking and we were playing good football. That’s been the biggest thing for me this year. That is what I want to see. That’s entertainment.
It is a moment that you remember. And it is moments like that I want to create more of. It was also like that when John Guidetti scored [a late equaliser] against Inter Milan [in January]. It was a good moment, and another “out-of-your-self” experience. It is an unbelievable feeling to stand on the touchline and feel as if everyone is into the game, and everyone is playing well. There is a special energy in the stadium. I get goosebumps now when I think about it.
MY OWN success at swimming’s World Championships this year was very special to me. This time last year I had been ill with glandular fever and that hit my training and I wasn’t even sure if I would make the team, so I was very happy to get there and to get a medal was extremely satisfying.
But away from swimming my highlight was the way the Scottish team performed at the Rugby World Cup. I know a few of the guys and there was a lot of people doubting them after Japan’s great start against South Africa in their group but the guys handled the pressure and absolutely smashed it.
The games were exciting and they never gave up and we were devastated at the way the game against Australia ended in such a controversial way.
I was in Doha with the Stirling University swim team and obviously the World Cup wasn’t on TV there but we managed to find a live stream so we could watch until that very last second against Australia. It was so unfair on the guys who had been the underdogs but had put so much into it. That’s when we turned it off and I never watched another minute of the tournament.
THERE were a couple of highlights. The first was Great Britain winning the Davis Cup, but from a personal point of view the best thing about 2015 was Hearts winning the Championship title.
After all the drama and the negatives, it was great to go along to Tynecastle and see the team playing with so much belief, scoring goals and entertaining big crowds again.
You always expect sell-out crowds against the likes of Rangers and Hibs but the fans were still turning up for games against the likes of Cowdenbeath. We were all in it together and Ann Budge was a massive part of that.
She has brought that good feeling back to the club and I think everyone believed that something special was happening. Beating Rangers on the opening day gave us the momentum and the confidence to go on such an amazing unbeaten run.
I managed to get to quite a lot of games but the one game that stands out – and it was in 2015 – was a game I wasn’t even at. It was the day we beat Cowdenbeath 10-0. I was getting texts updates and it was 1-0, 2-0 and then 3-0 and it just kept on going. I was thinking “what the hell?” but that summed up the season.
WHAT the Murray brothers did for Scottish sport with the Davis Cup win was utterly fantastic. They, and their mother Judy, are a credit to our country.
Every team, every country needs a standard bearer and Andy was that for team GB in the Davis Cup and is so for our nation. The manner in which he pushes every sinew to maximise a great talent I find inspiring. An undoubted highlight.
I am fortunate that I have had so many of them, because, for me, any time I watch Barcelona is a highlight. They play football the way it should be played.
I think they give a lead that we should take. We often hear about how Scotland doesn’t produce physically domineering players capable of competing at the highest level.
Look at Barcelona: they prioritise ability and talent. Who knows whether we have a young Lionel Messi, a Luis Suarez or Neymar? We have to be ceaseless in our attempts to search out ball players and nurture them.
SFA Chief Executive
IT IS a very close call with a number of amazing sporting achievements, but I have to plump for Lewis Hamilton winning the Formula One drivers’ championship. There may be no Scottish connection beyond the fact that in doing so he equalled Jackie Stewart’s record of three titles, but you just cannot dispute the manner it was earned.
No British driver before him had retained the championship. To win ten of the 19 Grands Prix was something else.
I know Mercedes, who Hamilton drives for, are very well financed but he has made the attention be drawn again to the driver rather than their car. Not for nothing is he one of the favourites for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
I was a little torn, though, over my selection after what the Murray brothers gave us in winning the Davis Cup in such stunning style. Their success too was one for the ages, but I feel Hamilton just had a little edge over them.
Scotland women coach
THE best experience for me was the World Cup final. I was fortunate enough to be there and it was a great occasion even if it was all over as a contest very early on.
I had been at a finals before – in Germany – and that was a brilliant experience as well but, in Canada, it was such a fantastic atmosphere.
The difference this time was that so many people in the crowd were appreciative of what they were seeing. They were knowledgeable and not just there for the curiosity factor.
The USA had some wonderful players, but so do Japan. They just didn’t do it that day.
Carli Lloyd scored three times in just over 16 minutes so Japan were down before they could really get started. It was a wonderful opportunity to be in the stadium for the game and it was good that Japan still tried and got one goal before half-time. But it finished 5-2 to USA and they deserved to win the World Cup, but there were a lot of good players and it was good to see so many people watching and enjoying the football.
Ryder Cup golfer
IT IS probably my favourite and least favourite sporting moment in 2015 rolled into one – Scotland almost beating Australia in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
We’d not beaten them on that stage and to have a sniff was so exciting. The fact we then lost in the last minute through a bad call by the referee, I don’t think I have ever been so happy and sad almost simultaneously.
I know the end outcome isn’t a happy memory, but I still felt the boys did the country proud and I think they brought the nation together that day in a way that doesn’t happen all that often.
I love my rugby and I thought the whole tournament was a brilliant spectacle. It was brilliant to see grounds filled – even for the less attractive games – and it was great to see the fans mingling.
I think the whole event showed what a great sport rugby is and for New Zealand to become the first team to win it back-to-back was a fitting finale.
Interviews by Moira Gordon, Andrew Smith, Iain Morrison, Alan Pattullo and Martin Dempster.