Ally’s Army


Dad brought me “a surprise”. For a wild moment, I saw myself speeding up Auld Mill Hill on a Puch 50. He said Mam would like the present too, so it wasn’t the motorbike I dreamed of then. Inside the small plastic bag was a record.

Belief in the nation was so high that 30,000 turned up at Hampden to see the players off, even though a ball wasn’t kicked in earnest. Hundreds of thousands more tuned in on Scottish TV as the red carpet was rolled out for Ally. Andy Cameron sang his World Cup song and pipe bands played. The players’ only exertions were to climb aboard an open-top bus en route for Prestwick Airport. Many more fans lined the streets along the way.

The Tartan Army foot soldiers would follow the team to Argentina. The select few who could afford it. I read about people who were going but I doubt if there was anyone from Breogan. It was all taking place too far away.

Down at Auld Mill Park the names from Germany 74 were still reverberating: a piledriver free kick was accompanied by a scream of Rivilinho; I tried the Cruyff turn while dribbling around the molehills on the pitch. There were stickers to collect from the Auld Mill newsagent. 4p for six. It would’ve taken an eternity to fill the sticker book on my pocket money, but inside were some prized possessions: swarthy Mediterraneans, Latin Americans with afro hairstyles and necklaces, and pale Eastern Europeans (with large moustaches) that looked as if they had stepped straight out of the Gdansk shipyards.

There were a few Poles in Breogan too. Jazz coached juvenile teams in the summer league. He had perfected the knack of firing projectiles of snot out of his nose. It must have taken practice to perfect this footballing art, but it was worth the time and effort as it won him much respect among the lads. Jazz was also known for his Peter Lorimer style cannonball shot, which he liked to demonstrate in a bounce game at the end of every training session. Nobody was fully initiated into one of Jazz’s teams until one of his rockets had reverberated off your body, leaving you with pulsating red thighs or buttocks, if you were lucky. If fortune was against you, it could mean an aching stomach and black and blue bollocks.

Jazz was a Rangers fan. It wasn’t a good idea to wear a Celtic strip to one of his training sessions. “Fenians” as he called them, had to run up and down Auld Mill Hill until they were on the point of collapse. Just like Jock Wallace used to do with the entire Rangers squad on the sands at Gullane. But even those who were wise to Jazz’s methods knew it wouldn’t take him long to find out who among his recruits were Celtic-minded.

The likelihood is that members of his own family were “Papes”, another name he had for those who wore green and white hoops. But Jazz was true blue loyal to the core and this was his way of proving it. 

Extract from Countries of the World © Steven Porter 2010

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