Why did Scotland stop qualifying for major tournaments?

(Image credit: PA Images)

Jim Leighton is 62. His age has an added pertinence this week because, for 22 years, Leighton has retained the distinction of playing in Scotland’s last game in a major tournament. He was beaten three times as Morocco scored in Saint-Etienne. Scotland were out of the 1998 World Cup, but they would be back: after all, they had played in seven of eight World Cups then, even while retaining their infamous record of never progressing beyond the first stage. They had been at Euro 92 and Euro 96, too, all the while compiling a record that led Del Amitri to pessimistically title the anthem of their 1998 campaign Don’t Come Home Too Soon.

They did, but they were such regular presences that Leighton equalled Bobby Charlton’s British record of going to four World Cups. And then Scotland veered into a different kind of consistency.

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Richard Jolly

Richard Jolly also writes for the National, the Guardian, the Observer, the Straits Times, the Independent, Sporting Life, Football 365 and the Blizzard. He has written for the FourFourTwo website since 2018 and for the magazine in the 1990s and the 2020s, but not in between. He has covered 1500+ games and remembers a disturbing number of the 0-0 draws.