Scotland – neither favourite, nor outsider. There was pretty much consensus on that, but there was also consensus that the Scots were likely to reach the second stage of the World Cup finals – at second place, behind Holland. Scottish situation was – and is – unique, indeed: common wisdom does not apply to Scotland. Common sense tells simple story: strong club football makes strong national team, which was clearly not the Scottish case. Observers spoke of crisis, a deepening one, for few years – domestic championship was getting weaker, top clubs were mediocre in the European tournaments, and money were short. The league had to be reorganized and reduced drastically in numbers in and effort to stabilize the situation. Yet, the national team was quite strong. There was no secret why – the best Scottish players traditionally played for English clubs and there were always 20-25 classy players at hand. Yet.
How really strong were the Scots was another matter – always difficult to play against, they were typical representatives of the British football. Physically strong, never giving up, fast, attacking minded bunch. Dangerous. And also weak: English football, by-passing midfield and depending on long balls to the wingers, who in turn immediately passed high crosses in front of the net, was no longer efficient game – it was easy to read, predictable. Modern game depended largely on the midfield . Defensively, the British stubborn habit to play in line was another weakness – it was easily penetrated by sophisticated teams. However, unlike England, Scotland increasingly employed the off-side trap - a bit of 'Continental' modernity, compensating for the absence of either libero, or sweeper. Pros and cons pretty much equal, hence, Scotland was not in the camp of the mighty and not among the outsiders. Capable of anything... after all, Scotland eliminated the current European champions Czechoslovakia. After all, Scotland was going to the finals, and England was sulking at home. Can't dismiss the Scots.
Then, it all depends on standpoint – the view from outside is not shared by those inside. The coach of Scotland answered the question 'What do you plan to do after the World Cup?' with confident optimism – or arrogance – 'Retain it.' The same man, when asked back in early 1977 to name the favourites at the finals listed teams which failed to qualify later in the year. 25 000 people came to Hampden Park to watch the squad circle in an open-top bus prior to departure for the finals – as if they already won and were going to Argentina just to collect the trophy. At least the team discovered the right destination, for when Scotland secured their spot at the finals, newspaper headlines announced that Scotland was going to the World Cup in Brazil! Never mind geography, the silly song 'Ally's Tartan Army' reached number 6 on the UK charts.
1 GK Alan Rough 25 November 1951 (aged 26) Partick Thistle
2 DF Sandy Jardine 31 December 1948 (aged 29) Rangers
3 DF Willie Donachie 5 October 1951 (aged 26) Manchester City
4 DF Martin Buchan 6 March 1949 (aged 29) Manchester United
5 DF Gordon McQueen 26 June 1952 (aged 25) Manchester United
6 MF Bruce Rioch 6 September 1947 (aged 30) Derby County
7 MF Don Masson 26 August 1949 (aged 28) Derby County
8 FW Kenny Dalglish 4 March 1951 (aged 27) Liverpool
9 FW Joe Jordan 15 December 1951 (aged 26) Manchester United
10 MF Asa Hartford 24 October 1950 (aged 27) Manchester City
11 MF Willie Johnston 19 December 1946 (aged 31) West Bromwich
12 GK Jim Blyth 2 February 1955 (aged 23) Coventry City
13 DF Stuart Kennedy 31 May 1953 (aged 25) Aberdeen
14 DF Tom Forsyth 23 January 1949 (aged 29) Rangers
15 MF Archie Gemmill 24 March 1947 (aged 31) Nottingham Forest
16 FW Lou Macari 7 June 1949 (aged 28) Manchester United
17 FW Derek Johnstone 4 November 1953 (aged 24) Rangers
18 MF Graeme Souness 6 May 1953 (aged 25) Liverpool
19 FW John Robertson 20 January 1953 (aged 25) Nottingham Forest
20 GK Bobby Clark 26 September 1945 (aged 32) Aberdeen
21 FW Joe Harper 11 January 1948 (aged 30) Aberdeen
22 DF Kenny Burns 23 September 1953 (aged 24) Nottingham Forest
But some trivia also emerged – may be more than amusing trivia. Given the Scottish predicament, they were the team with most foreign based players among the finalists – 15 played in England, heavily clustered in Manchester United (4), Liverpool (2), Nottingham Forest (3), Derby County (2), and Manchester City (2). It was quickly discovered that the Scots arrived in Argentina with enormous supply of whiskey, which they used liberally, as if on they were on holiday. After the opening match complains and excuses popped up: a dispute over bonuses; the lack of water in the hotel's swimming pool, and general boredom of the players. Doping scandal loomed – Willie Johnston was found using banned substance, fencamfamin. The player argued he only too a cold pill, but had to be send home. McLead stood firmly behind his player, but evidence was undeniable. Under pressure during press-conference, McLeod saw a mongrel dog approach and said 'I think he is the only friend I have got left'. The road from praise to disgrace was very short one.