Scotland World Cup Winners 1978

In 1978 Scotland were the only home nation to qualify for the World Cup finals to be held in Argentina. They had finished top of their qualifying group, knocking out the reigning European champions Czechoslovakia. Wales finished bottom of the same group. England missed out by finishing second to Italy on goal difference in their group whilst Northern Ireland finished second bottom of their group.

There was an air of expectancy amongst Scottish fans and a feeling that the team could go far in the tournament. Scottish manager Ally MacLeod declared that the team would be back with “at least a medal” and when asked what he would do after the World Cup replied “retain it”.

The team was given a great send off by the fans. Thousands packed Hampden Park and lined the route to Prestwick Airport to see their heroes depart and Andy Cameron's World Cup song, Ally's Tartan Army, joyfully proclaimed “we'll really shake them up when we win the World Cup”.

This mood of optimism didn't bypass Royal Mail. They made plans for a special issue to commemorate a Scotland World Cup win, and here it is. Quite possibly the greatest stamp never to be issued.

Proposed stamp issue for Scotland winning the World Cup, 1978. 
Copyright Royal Mail Group Ltd 2010 courtesy of The British Postal Museum and Archive

Scotland were beat 3-1 by Peru in their opening game and could only draw 1-1 with Iran in their second game. Going into their final game against the Netherlands they could still qualify but needed to beat the Dutch, probably the best team in the World at that time, by three clear goals. Despite Holland going one up Scotland fought back to take lead. When Archie Gemmill, scoring one of the World Cup's all-time greatest goals, dancing round the entire Dutch defence to make it 3-1, it seemed that the improbable was possible.

Unfortunately Holland got one back to make the final score 3-2 and despite the win the Scots were eliminated on goal difference for the second successive World Cup tournament.

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