Traditionalist Ally McCoist calls on SFA to choose Hampden

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As far as Ally McCoist is concerned there can only be one outcome when the long-delayed call over the future of Hampden Park is made this week.

The decision whether to retain Hampden as the national football stadium for Scotland matches and major domestic cup fixtures, or move these occasions to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, is expected to be announced in the coming days.

16/08/95 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIER'SCOTLAND V GREECE (1-0)'HAMPDEN - GLASGOW'Ally McCoist shows his delight after scoring for Scotland. Craig Burley (left) and John Robertson celebrate their team-mates's winning goal of the game.

16/08/95 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIER'SCOTLAND V GREECE (1-0)'HAMPDEN - GLASGOW'Ally McCoist shows his delight after scoring for Scotland. Craig Burley (left) and John Robertson celebrate their team-mates's winning goal of the game.

Concluding presentations from both competing bids were made last week but the SFA then felt it could not make a final call without more information being sought.

It is understood the hold-up revolved around the inability of the SFA to reach a sale agreement with Hampden owners Queen’s Park for the stadium.

The football governing body is unwilling to remain at the stadium without resolving the historical anomaly of being only tenants within it – the present situation precipitated by its current lease with the amateur club expiring in 2020. The two parties have been a considerable distance apart in their valuation of the facility. Queens are seeking £6 million, while the SFA has offered £2m.

Queens’ bargaining position is profoundly weakened by the fact they will be forced to find £12m to pay back to the National Lottery that was obtained for the £53m redevelopment of the ground in the 1990s on the proviso that the venue would remain the national football stadium in perpetuity.

McCoist despairs at the thought that such issues – and the powerful case presented by the SRU that greater sums could be generated for football by a flit to Edinburgh – could prejudice the continuation of Hampden as Scottish football’s field of dreams – a role it has held for more than a century, to provide a treasure trove of memories and magical moments in the annals of the game. Plenty, indeed, for the former Rangers and Scotland striker.

“Hampden all day,” McCoist said on being asked his preference between the Mount Florida ground and Murrayfield for being Scottish football’s base beyond 2020. “Hampden’s got its problems, I appreciate that. I go back to when they rebuilt Hampden and think that is where the problems were. We should have done it right then.

“I’ve been telling the boys down south that Easter Road and Tynecastle are fantastic places to go and watch football now. Brilliant places to watch football. I think I went to three Edinburgh derbies last year and they were brilliant. The fans are right on top of you; they’re proper football stadiums.

“We’ve obviously got the problem at Hampden [with the distance to the pitch]. But the work that’s needing done, there must be something we can do to get Hampden to be a proper national stadium. It’s down to finance, I get that. Everything in life is about that these days. But tradition has got to count for something. Because if you take the emotion and tradition out of it, you take away what supporters are all about. It is all about the emotion, tradition and looking back for them.

“Listen, I love my rugby but I quite enjoy going through to Edinburgh for my rugby, though I go to see Glasgow Warriors as well. I go through to Murrayfield and enjoy it. I wouldn’t say I’m old fashioned or Neanderthal but SFA/Hampden/cup finals for me, that’s what it has to be. Let’s do something with Hampden. It is not perfect access-wise but neither is Murrayfield, if we are going to be brutally honest about it.”

McCoist’s memories of Hampden aren’t all whiskered. He considers one of his favourite days there to have been created by the crowd convulsions that followed Leigh Griffiths’ scarcely believable rapid-fire free-kick double in the 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw against England in June last year.

His hat-trick in the League Cup final of March 1984 that brought Rangers a 3-2 victory over Celtic was a personal high point, with his donning of the dark blue inspiring two famous others.

“The Greece header, [August 95] to get us to Euro ’96. And scoring against Norway [in November 1989] to get us to the World Cup in 1990. Great memories there for Scotland. Hampden is the home of Scottish football. I make no apologies for being an old fashioned, traditionalist.

“I remember watching my first game at Hampden, the 1973 Scottish Cup final, and tell my boys about being one of 118,000 there to watch 
Tam Forsyth scoring [the winner] from 25 inches. My first Rangers-Celtic game and I remember it as if it were yesterday.”