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'And the cry was "No Defenders"'
The Museum of Scottish Football at Hampden Park, Glasgow


Stuart Baird

 

Capturing the passion and the clichés of football is only part of the aim for Scotland's national football museum. The development of the game in Scotland and the highs and lows of the fans go along with football as social history. Museum director Ged O'Brien was concerned with ensuring that the museum both gave a broad view of the Scottish game and could hold the attention of those with only a passing interest.

The museum itself is a work in progress. When I spoke to O'Brien he stressed the continued work of researchers in developing and fine-tuning the museum, and suggested it would take 150 years to establish it within Scottish culture. O'Brien wasn't holding back at the opening of the museum on Thursday 24th May, stating "'Our main aim with the museum is to successfully prove to the football public that Scotland is the most important football team, the most important football nation on earth."

Given the present international standing of the game in Scotland and the pessimism that follows Scottish teams abroad I thought this a breath of fresh air. Perhaps O'Brien is the last paid-up member of Ally's tartan army.

The exhibits flow from a history of the game, the media, fans and an exhibition of photographs. The trinkets on display are wide-ranging, from the first international cap and the Scottish Cup to veteran commentator Archie McPherson's famous sheepskin coat and BBC pundit Gordon Smith's tactics table. Accompanying the exhibits are the stories behind them, and it is here that the visitor finds many amusing anecdotes and pub statistics. A match report from the world's first international noted the innovative style of the Scottish game. Rather than dribbling with the ball until tackled as the English did, the Scots on occasion had the notion of passing the ball to a teammate. Ron Manager would have been proud.

While the impact of Scottish teams may be minimal on the game today, reading the exploits of the teams in the late 50's and 60's brought a lump to my throat. Hibernian reached the semi-final of the European Cup in 1955-56, Rangers were the first British team to reach a European final in 1961, Rangers and Celtic were in the finals of the European Cup and Cup Winners' Cup in 1967 - Celtic winning and Rangers losing. Scotland's two other representatives had successful runs that year with Kilmarnock reaching the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup and Dundee United beating Barcelona home and away earlier in the same tournament.

Football hooliganism is illustrated through the pitch invasions of 1972,'77 and '80. Rangers fans clash with Franco's police in Barcelona, the Tartan Army riot at Wembley and Celtic and Rangers stage a pitch invasion after the Scottish Cup final. Here, the inability to go beyond the basic events suggests that the museum does not have much of an analysis of social history. The reaction against hooliganism in the reformed tartan army is noted along with the goodwill they generate abroad. Of course such a laid-back attitude is a reflection of the lack of ambition within the Scottish international team. When the team isn't expected to win anything it's hard to get worked up.

This can be contrasted with the reaction to perhaps the last time Scotland tried to face the world as equals in Argentina during 1978, when the poor results on the pitch provoked outrage from the supporters off it. Perhaps Archie Gemmill's goal and the face-saving victory against the Dutch were Scotland's first steps towards its present position as a nation of gallant losers.

It is in the domestic game that the contest between different teams and fans generates the spark that is at the heart of football. The museum displays a number of fanzines and displays two Old Firm T-shirts: "The future's bright, the future's orange", from Rangers' Scottish Cup final victory in 2000, and "The Cry Was No Defenders" from Celtic's 6-2 win over Rangers in the league the following season. (The former uses an advertising slogan to play on the association between Rangers and Orangeism, while the latter is a mischievious play on the Orange anthem, "No Surrender").

The staff in the museum were quite talkative and interested in what the public had to say. A curator quizzed me on whether I was offended and remarked that they would be watching that part of the exhibit for the public's reaction. As the role of a set of fans is to offend the opposition, I suggested that being offended was part and parcel of being a football fan. There is even something to be admired in the creativity of the insults opposing fans can come up with.

While I enjoyed visiting the museum it was clear that it wasn't finished, some areas did not have their displays developed, and as a whole it didn't have the sense of scale to make you feel that Scotland was the world's most important footballing nation. Most of all though I was disappointed that they didn't have on display the coin that an irate Celtic fan skelped off referee Hugh Dallas' head during Rangers' championship-winning victory at Celtic Park in 1999. That would have been a display.


 

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