'Scotland and victory have become contradictory terms' - How The Scotsman covered Scotland's Euro 96 defeat by England at Wembley

When Scotland were beaten by England at Wembley during Euro 96 25 years ago, the manner of the defeat rendered many Scots inconsolable.

Despair for Gary McAllister as David Seaman saves his penalty at 1-0
Despair for Gary McAllister as David Seaman saves his penalty at 1-0

The Scotsman’s football writers were no different.

The inimitable Mike Aitken wrote: “Wembley was the site of a family at war. A gloriously dour match that set brother against brother left the dignified Scots unconsoled by the understanding that as the runts of the Euro 96 litter they accomplished much more than many expected.

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"Blackburn’s Colin Hendry versus Alan Shearer, Tottenham’s Colin Calderwood versus Teddy Sheringham, and Rangers’ Stuart McCall versus Paul Gascoigne – all of these individual battles of Britain between club mates were linked by a common thread. In each case the Scot was cast in the role of his brother’s keeper.

Part of The Scotsman's coverage after the defeat at Wembley

"As it turned out, McCall eclipsed Gascoigne for all but 20 seconds of the match and Shearer only made two meaningful contributions to the entire game.”

Aitken opined: “In spite of failing to produce a performance of sustained quality, the truth was that England took three points from the game because they had match-winners in their side and Scotland didn’t.

"Not even the tactics deployed by Craig Brown and Alex Miller, or the boundless drive and enthusiasm of McCall and Gordon Durie could paper over the cracks in the Scotland set-up.

"The team came to England lacking players of spark and unpredictability – men, in short, such as Gascoigne and Shearer.

"After such a splendid occasion, when Scotland’s supporters conducted themselves with sufficient rough charm around Wembley to enhance their reputation for fair play, let us be gracious and acknowledge that, although the score flattered them, England deserved to win.”

Keevins: Scotland lacked conviction in the area that mattered most

Hugh Keevins, meanwhile, focused on the lack of goals in the team.

"Scotland’s dominant characteristic remains the ability to inflict damage on themselves far quicker than they hurt the opposition. That is why England won by a more comfortable margin than the gap in ability between the sides at one stage suggested.

"Scotland lacked conviction in the area that mattered most. Gordon Durie worked manfully throughout the match but a player who had taken no part in any of the qualifying ties suddenly became, on the eve of the tournament, entrusted with the mantle of being his country's saviour.

"Others have been found to be under-qualified for the work they have been asked to do. Privately, there are doubts over the ability of the forwards in Scotland’s Under-21 side to make the transition to the highest level.”

McAllister reaction

The game was notable for Gary McAllister seeing a spot-kick saved at 1-0. Admitting afterwards: “I don’t know if I can sink any lower,” McAllister vowed: “I’ve been taking penalties for as long as I can remember. My first instinct is to go and take them and I’ll carry on.”

Keevins wrote: “Penalty kicks have a way of proving that human beings are only fallible, and McAllister should be allowed the understanding of his fellow man.

"If he had not taken the penalty and somene else missed, the captain would have been accused of dereliction of duty.”

He concluded: “While Terry Venables’ side did not show their superiority for very long, England are clearly better than Scotland, and that is unlikely to change with the passage of time.

"Scotland and victory have become contradictory terms.”

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