The trip to Wembley was a bi-annual pilgrimage of ritual and celebration. Win, lose or draw you go home to your bed just the same, as a Scottish songwriter once said. Those matches have faded into memories but football hasn’t changed much – it’s the consolation of seeing twenty two players make familiar patterns with a ball. We live safe in the knowledge that, provided there is a modicum of peace and stability in the country, the game will continue. In essence, football is a simple sport that has only undergone minor alterations. Bar a few small changes, it’s the same as the game played by the Wembley Wizards in 1928 and later Scottish heroes like Baxter, Law or Dalglish. The passback rule means goalkeepers can’t pick the ball up as much as they used to, there are three points for a win instead of two, the offside rule has been tinkered with from time to time, but it has existed since the 19th century along with other basic features like corners, free kicks and penalties.
The sixties saw a few significant changes. Substitutes appeared and their numbers have since increased. I don’t remember football without them. Scotland comfortably defeated England at Wembley in 1967 with Jim Baxter and the Lawman running the show, but most Scots prefer to overlook the fact that Jack Charlton was injured early in that game and had to soldier on for England. The English Football League had introduced subs in the 1965-66 season (so that injured players could be replaced, not for tactical reasons). The first substitute ever used in a top level Scottish match was none other than Archie Gemmill of St Mirren in a League Cup match against Clyde in August 1966. I digress, but that’s football for you. One fact or memory leads to another and the game goes on.
- Archie Gemmill tips Scotland to end 14 years of hurt with Euro 2012 qualification (telegraph.co.uk)
- The Growing Scottish Influence in English Football (theflatbackfour.blogspot.com)