Scotland's progress to the finals of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship ends a 20-year absence from this level and brings back some happy memories for UEFA's technical director Andy Roxburgh.
The Scots last qualified for the U18 finals in 1986, but it is the competition of four years earlier that is remembered most fondly. With Roxburgh assisted by current national team manager Walter Smith, the Scots disposed of old rivals England to reach the tournament in Finland, where they defeated Albania and Turkey before drawing with a strong Netherlands side to progress to the semi-finals. There Poland were overcome 2-0 before goals from Gary Mackay, Pat Nevin and John Philliben secured a 3-1 victory in the final against Czechoslovakia in Helsinki, and Scotland's only international title at any level.
"It was a real adventure working with those young boys," Roxburgh told uefa.com. "It was a great group with so many talented players like Paul McStay, who played for Celtic [FC] and Pat Nevin, who went on to play for Chelsea [FC]. An enormous number of that squad later became well-known international players. That victory was so important for us because winning the European Championship was such a big thing for all of Scottish football."
Almost a quarter of a century later, Roxburgh's memories are as vivid as if it were yesterday. "Knocking out England was a good start, it set us on the right road and put us in a good frame of mind. The Dutch had a lot of great players; [Marco] Van Basten played in that side, as did Gerald Vanenburg. I sent my assistant Walter Smith to spy on them and he came back and said "We've no chance!" because they were so good. But we held them to the draw; they opened the scoring but we fought back."
'Sprit and quality'
Roxburgh believes that spirit, allied to ability, was crucial in his side's success, saying: "
We weren't just a fighting team. We were very committed and competitive but we had good quality as well. When we went got past the Dutch the rest seemed to take care of itself. We were on such a high and mentally we were ready for Poland, we swept past them. We went into the final against Czechoslovakia and again their reputation had gone before them. They were a very good team but on the day we played well and and we deserved our victory."
While the Scots were celebrating, however, their manager was nursing a painful injury. "Our opening goal in the final came from a corner," Roxburgh explained. "I jumped up when we scored but, in doing so, I tore a calf muscle. Of course this was hilarious for the players because I was limping from that moment on and, in the evening, the guys were all jumping around celebrating and I had to sit with an ice pack on my leg. The players gave me a warm heart, but a sore leg!"
Although Roxburgh is delighted that Scotland have ended their long wait to reach in the finals again, what gives him most pleasure is the quality of their side. "I'm very pleased from a personal point of view that Scotland have qualified but first and foremost we want to have the best teams at our finals and the Scots have done really, really well. I'm delighted that they're a top side and for me personally, it's nice that after all these years a Scottish team is going to play in these finals again."
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