Ray Clemence was a fantastic goalkeeper despite his error for one of the Tartan Army’s most-cherished goals
As the Tartan Army look forward to the Euros, to Wembley and the resumption of the epic rivalry, they will look back to famous victories against England, none more so than the three achieved in the 1970s.
But following the sad death of Ray Clemence now might be a good time to admit the good fortune Scotland enjoyed in all of them, courtesy of some of the scruffiest, sclaffiest and downright ugliest goals which have ever dribbled, bobbled and ricocheted into the Auld Enemy net.
Three wins in one decade was no mean feat. It wasn’t the six achieved in the 1920s when the Scottish lion was at its most rampant. But since that trio, notwithstanding the later cancellation of the annual fixture, Scotland have only achieved three further victories.
In 1976 Clemence, who has died aged 72 after a long battle with prostate cancer, was the goalkeeper when Don Revie brought England to Hampden for the winner-takes-all final game in the British Home Championship in front of a crowd of 85,165.
England scored first, a Mick Channon header in the 11th minute, which was quickly equalised by a header from an unlikely source, midfielder Don Masson. But this pulsating match’s key contest would be between future club-mates Clemence and Kenny Dalglish who would move to Liverpool the following year.
The pair clashed just before half-time when, by modern rules, the Scot might have won a penalty. And again when Ray Kennedy was short with a passback, Clemence not really being helped out by his fellow Reds, Phil Thompson having already sliced horribly over his own bar.
The crucial moment came five minutes after half-time when Joe Jordan crossed from the left, Dalglish sidestepped Mick Mills, but from seven yards shot weakly. What should have been a routine save turned into a keeper’s nightmare, as Clemence crouched to collect only to allow the ball to squirt through his legs.
There had been similar good fortune in 1974 at Hampden when Scotland triumphed with two deflected goals and Jordan’s shot might not even have been going in. Then in ’77 Scotland won at Wembley following one of Arthur Montford’s stramashes, Clemence left stranded after an initial Dalglish effort was blocked.
But it’s the goal in ’76 which probably rates as the Tartan Army’s least-beautiful, most-cherished. “Clemence’s day is now complete - a total disaster,” screeched commentator David Coleman, which was a bit hard on the man, as he hadn’t had a bad game until then. It’s not as if he’d wrapped himself round a goalpost while conceding five or anything.
And he was a fantastic goalkeeper who after being handed Tommy Lawrence’s jersey at Liverpool - quite literally, with the one worn by the burly Scot proving too big for him, sagging to his knees on wet days - made the position his own. Three European Cups, two Uefa Cups, five league titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup are testimony to that.
But he didn’t quite manage to make the England shirt his own, having had to rotate with Peter Shilton and as a result only amassing 61 caps. What a luxury for England. And the shame about Ray is that he didn’t have a Scottish granny.
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