Tartan Army soldier tells how he was sole Scottish fan to witness country's biggest win in a generation
Dad-of-two’s unique night of a lifetime
In years to come when Scots turn to their elders and say ‘where were you when Scotland beat Serbia to reach Euro 2020?’ there will be only one Tartan Army soldier who can truthfully say ‘I was there’.
And for 44-year-old Gordon Howat it was a moment he will never forget.
The dad-of-two used a dose of quick-thinking and cunning to circumvent the covid lockdown that had stumped all other Tartan Army fans, by cleverly disguising a work trip to follow his heroes to the Balkan outpost.
And as he proudly flew a homemade Saltire alone from his seat in the 53,000-seat capacity Rajko Mitić Stadium Gordon, a veteran of the France 98 Scotland campaign, realised he was the only Scottish fan privileged to witness history in the making.
He told The Scotsman: “It was kind of surreal, I ws sitting next to a handful of Scottish journalists covering the match but apart from that there was no other Scottish fans.
"I wish there had been 20,000 other Scottish fans round about me, but I’d like to hope I did my fair share of shouting.”
A career designing and installing sports pitches has opened the doors for Gordon, from Helensburgh, to some of the world’s top global sporting events, including the last world cup final in Moscow.
So when Scotland clinched their playoff place for Euro 2020 by beating Israel on penalties, he wasted no time in contacting Red Star Belgrade, the usual occupiers of the Ratko Mitić ground, to call in a favour.
He explained: “I work as a consultant for a firm called Sports Turf Research Institute designing and installing sports pitches and we have clients all over the world, including Red Star. I am good friends with the chairman so when Scotland beat Israel to set up this decider I was right on the phone to make sure I was here on the night to ‘inspect the pitch’.
"It was a surreal experience If i am honest, I was sitting on my own next to about five journalists with my flag with the names of my daughters Lottie and Susa. We almost did our best to blow it on the pitch too but we came good.
“The irony is that while the match was on it was raining so hard that I was getting genuinely concerned for the pitch and was watching it just as closely as the game.”
He added: "I have been lucky enough to be at some major sporting events through my work, including the last World Cup Final, but last night destroyed all of them. This one mattered more than any of them.
"In fact I don’t think we realise just how much it matters yet, it really is a big old deal. For my kids to have the chance to go to see Scotland play in a major tournament is fantastic. I feel very lucky to be the only Scotland fan at the game, I’m just looking forward to sharing the result with my wife Mary Louise, my daughters and other Scottish fans at Hampden. I hope to goodness we can do that.”