Ferguson Makes It Three: A Scottish Football Timeline

So Rangers don't go down here? Granted I suspect that Celtic will be strong here though nowhere near as dominant as they were and this likely means the second 9IAR never happens?

I'm suspect more chance for the other clubs to get cub success such as those many times as with OTL when Aberdeen went to many finals yet apart from one ended up empty handed. Hell, the likes of Motherwell, Rangers and Hearts might all have better luck in the cups here too without having to play a OP Celtic here.

All in all, league expansion is good though do we get the same format of playing each team for times or has it changed to just a typical 2 times then? I suspect the latter won't be popular with TV broadcasters regarding Old Firm games. Anyway good update and will be keeping a close eye on the leagues and hopefully a quick return for Raith back to the top flight here! ;)
Euro 2012, Part 1

Euro 2012, Part 1

The moment Scotland and England were drawn together in the same group for Euro 2012, fans on both sides of the border knew there was little chance of any pre-tournament chat focussing on anything else. It was, after all, the first time in a long time they’d been drawn against each other in a competitive fixture.

For once, though, there was a difference: Scotland seemed to be the more optimistic of the two nations. And why shouldn’t they be, given they had outplayed England in the last two major tournaments? This was only reinforced when England boss Fabio Capello abruptly resigned early in the new year, leaving the incoming Roy Hodgson little time to get his team in line for the tournament…

That said, Scotland weren't without their own problems. Captain Darren Fletcher had been forced to take a break from the game due to the ulcerative colitis he had been diagnosed with the previous season, and would thus miss the tournament, plus a good deal of the following World Cup qualifying campaign. In his absence, Alan McGregor took over as captain, with Scott Brown as vice.

This aside, Calderwood had a reasonably settled first choice team; having moved on from the rigid loyalty to 4-3-1-2, wingers such as Robert Snodgrass and James Forrest were starting to find their ways into the team (even Scott Brown occasionally played on the right). The only other real concern were that their two must-be-picked attackers, Kenny Miller and James McFadden, would surely be moving on soon…

Before the much anticipated England game, Scotland would be kicking off the tournament against co-hosts Ukraine in Kiev, where, as seemed to be the case for most Scotland tournament games now, the Tartan Army would be very much outnumbered by the very partisan home crowd.

And boy did the feel it, with Ukraine very much keeping them up against the wall throughout the first half, from which they were lucky to escape with the score still goalless. But then, just seven minutes into the second half, McFadden would silence the home crowd with a well timed volley to give Scotland the lead, and it looked like it would be their game to build on now.

Instead, Andriy Shevchenko rifled in an equaliser just three minutes later, and, within another seven, had scored a second to give the hosts the lead, and leave Scotland facing an opening defeat. Until Fletcher broke through to equalise in the 81st minute, and, on balance, a 2-2 draw was a fair result to an excellent first game that neither team really deserved to lose on balance.

Next up, the big one: England.

The match would, once again, be in Kiev, and Scotland would line up virtually identically to the Ukraine game: McGregor in goal, Hutton, Caldwell, McManus and Wallace, Morrison and Brown in midfield, and an attacking quartet of Naismith and McFadden with Miller and Fletcher in front of them…

England, who had also begun their tournament with a draw, 1-1 with France, lined up with just one change from that game, with Ashley Young moving to the wing and Andy Carroll coming in alongside Danny Welbeck up front. It wasn’t the strongest England team on paper; it was a very odd mixture of aging remnants of the must-start line-up of ‘Golden Generation’ and players such as Scott Parker who were finally getting games because others had moved on/weren’t available.

As the two teams walked out onto the field in Kiev, the atmosphere amongst the fans was superb; both were certainly doing their nations proud. Apart from when ‘Flower of Scotland’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ were booed by certain sections of the other team’s fans.

England started stronger, with Scotland once again spending most of the opening exchanges with their backs to the wall. Scott Parker would get the first real chance of the game, with a great long range shot that McGregor matched with an also-great save. McFadden would try a similar shot shortly afterwards, but Joe Hart was also more than a match for it.

A goal would surely be coming soon, and come soon it did, but not for Scotland, as Steven Gerrard played a lovely long ball into the box, and Carroll just beat the offside trap and squirmed between two defenders to header it past McGregor. 1-0 England.

And it could easily have been 2 shortly afterwards, but Ashley Young was well marked by Hutton and ultimately sent his shot into the side netting. Scotland did have chances of their own to equalise, notably another long range shot, this time from Brown, but, as the half time whistle came, England still led 1-0. Scotland were down, but most certainly not out of the game yet.

They only needed one chance, and it came much sooner than expected…

Just four minutes after the restart, they would get a freekick after Naismith was fouled by Lescott. McFadden would take it, only for his shot on goal to hit the England wall. The ball fell nicely for Caldwell though, and he would take a shot of his own; Hart got a hand on it, but only managed to spin the ball goalbound; Glen Johnson tried to clear it, but instead kicked it onto the post and it bounced over the line! 1-1!

A messy goal, but Scotland would take it!

Suddenly, the momentum seemed to have shifted Scotland’s way. They pushed forwards and seemed the more likely to score again…

Then, they got another freekick, this time on the wing. Brown would take it this time, straight into the box, and it again was received by Caldwell, who, this time, got a clean header on it and knocked it straight past Hart! Scotland had turned the game on its head to lead 2-1!

As the ball hit the back of the net, every single pub in Scotland exploded! As did the fanzone park at Hampden! Scotland had pulled off a terrific fightback, and deservedly lead their southern neighbours! Many were starting to believe they could finally exorcise the ghosts of that England game in Euro 96.

But those dreams were to last just five minutes, as England won a corner; Brown would header it out of the box, but it fell straight to the feet of Theo Walcott, who’d just come on as a sub, who fired it goalbound and caught McGregor out completely!

What a great game this was turning into now!

And it most definitely wasn’t done yet, as England now won a free kick in the same sort of area Scotland had for the kick they got their first goal from. Young would take it, but his shot went well over the bar without troubling McGregor.

Both teams were certainly pushing forwards in search of a winner, and Scotland had two good chances to do so: firstly, Morrison would receive a nice backwards pass from Wallace, but his shot skimmed just wide.

And then McFadden found himself in space just outside the box, and took yet another long shot, which nearly caught Hart out, but ultimately he made a good save to deny him. A winning goal looked like it would definitely come from somewhere…

And indeed it did. But, alas, not for Scotland, as Walcott turned assister, slipping the ball in to Welbeck, who made a very nice backheel flick that completely caught McGregor out. 3-2 England.

Scotland continued to push for another equaliser, but the England defence stood firm, and an excellent game would end 3-2.

Nonetheless, there were plenty of positives Jimmy Calderwood and his team could take from the game; they’d played very well, scored a good goal from an excellent set piece, and had proved more than a match for their oldest and most hated rivals. On another day, they could well have snatched a draw, or maybe even the win for themselves.

But lose they had, and now they would have to win their final game against their old acquaintances France to stand a chance of going through…

Once again playing in Kiev, Scotland would switch to a 4-1-2-1-2 for the game, with Brown shifting to the right wing, Snodgrass making his first competitive start for his country on the left, and the attacking quartet becoming a trio, with Naismith dropping out.

At first, things went merely adequately, as Scotland would match Les Bleus in the first half, keeping their attackers at bay, but would struggle to create chances of their own. Half time came with the scores still goalless, and Scotland were heading out as it stood.

Calderwood would then take the halftime gamble of swapping Miller out for Jordan Rhodes, who, in spite of his good goal against Montenegro, was still a somewhat surprising inclusion in the squad.

But the Huddersfield man would prove his worth as, nine minutes into the second half, he would make a good sprint into the box and fire a strong short at Hugo Lloris; the France captain would save it, but not hold it, and the rebound fell to Fletcher, who fired it home to give Scotland the lead!

The rattled French, who were now the ones going out as it stood, dominated play afterwards, with Scotland happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, though McGregor was called on for some good saves to maintain their lead.

Then, as the clock ticked into added time, France got a corner. But Malouda’s kick was tame, and McGregor comfortably caught it. Craftily, the Rangers keeper took the clearance quickly, and McFadden would quickly charge upfield, beating the off side trap and catching the France defence out completely. One on one with Lloris, he had all the time in the World to dribble past him and score, but instead he gave it sideways to Rhodes, who had the honour of scoring the goal that confirmed Scotland’s progress to the knockout stage!

Euro 2012 Group Stage.PNG

The final table for Group D

For the French, the defeat would be the end of Gerard Houllier’s second stint as manager; he would step down ‘by mutual consent’ a day later, with Didiers Deschamps replacing him.

Scotland, meanwhile, had yet another knockout match to look forward to! Or, at least, they might’ve done, were they playing different opponents…

to be continued…


So, here we are at Euro 2012. One of the least interesting tournaments of all time. Seriously, I remember barely anything about this tournament from the time, apart from the three knockout stage matches involving Italy (who I said at the time would've been utterly robbed if they'd lost to England). Still, what better way to inject some much needed excitement to the tournament than a Scotland vs England game! Yeah, it's basically the same game as that with Sweden IOTL, but still...

The rest of the groups go the same as OTL for the record, except with Belgium and Sweden replacing the Czech Republic and Croatia respectively. So, it's Scotland vs Spain in the QFs next week; tune back in to see if Scotland can halt La Roja's imperious winning run...
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Euro 2012, Part 2

Euro 2012, Part 2

Scotland were through to a third successive knockout stages of a major tournament, but, unlike the previous three times they’d done so, the reaction to them doing so was rather muted. Maybe it was because the fans were used to it now. Maybe it was because it hadn’t exactly been a sparkling performance in the group stage from Jimmy Calderwood’s team. Maybe it was because the tournament itself had been pretty mundane thus far.

Or maybe it was because they were playing the reigning World and European champions Spain in the quarter-finals…

After winning Euro 2008, La Roja had topped it by winning the World Cup in South Africa; they’d comfortably topped their group with a draw with Italy the only minor blip, and there was no sign that their imperious form was going to let up any time soon. This was going to be a big ask for Scotland…

After three matches in Kiev, Scotland would be heading east to Donetsk for this game. Calderwood would switch to a 4-2-3-1 for the game, with the same defensive foursome as before, Brown moving back into the centre midfield alongside James Morrison, James Forrest making his competitive debut on the right and Rhodes starting solo up front with McFadden behind him.

Spain, meanwhile, were lining up with a most unusual starting XI, 4-3-3, but with six midfielders forming the 3-3 and no designated forwards. It was an odd line-up which had prompted much discussion following its use in their opening game with Italy; Craig Levein, part of the BBC’s panel for the game, said he didn’t see anything wrong with it and wondered why more teams weren’t doing it. These comments received much mocking on social media.

The match finally kicked off, and straight away, it was clear from the off that this was going to be a long game for Scotland, as Spain went straight for the jugular, with their six midfielders dominating Scotland’s defence from the off, with only some sublime keeping from Alan McGregor ensuring they didn’t run into a multi-goal lead within the first few minutes.

It looked inevitable that Spain would take the lead eventually, and, indeed, they did in the 19th minute, as Iniesta looked clean through on goal for a shot, but instead squared it to Xabi Alonso, who fired it past McGregor.

It looked like it was going to be a very long game for Scotland indeed. But, to their credit, they dug in after this goal, as the defenders finally managed to stem the relentless Spanish attacking flow. La Roja were still utterly dominating proceedings, but Scotland were at least managing to restrict their chances now.

At the half-time whistle, Spain still led by just the one goal, but, unless something changed dramatically in the second half, there was only ever going to be one winner of this game.

As the game resumed, it was more of the same, Spain’s midfielders surging forwards, Scotland’s defence trying desperately to keep up with them, and McGregor comfortably their best performing player on the field preventing the scoreline from becoming embarrassing.

Just after the hour mark, it was still 1-0; it was down mainly to McGregor that Spain weren’t out of sight, but the defenders had played their part too despite being outperformed most of the time.

Calderwood took a gamble at this point, taking Brown off for Miller and switching back to 4-1-2-1-2 in the hope of injecting some more attacking input. McManus would also be replaced by Christoph Berra so as to give some fresh legs to the defence.

At first, it didn’t seem to make much difference, as Spain continued to push forward, with their subs Pedro and Torres only adding to Scotland’s worries. But then, Scotland finally managed to catch a break, as Morrison managed to find Forrest on the wing, and he managed to slip it through to Miller. His shot was a tame one that Iker Casillas had no trouble dealing with, but Scotland had at least got a shot on target at last.

Almost straight from this brief moment of hope, though, came the killer blow that had been coming, as Xavi received the resulting goal kick and caught the Scotland defence out with an immediate chip through to Torres, who left McGregor no chance one-on-one. 2-0 Spain.

That goal took the wind out of Scotland’s sails; now they were simply playing for pride to try and keep the score down. Another defensive change would see another player make his debut, with Blackburn’s Grant Hanley replacing Caldwell.

More chances came for Spain, with McGregor still perpetually on his toes, but the match ultimately seemed to be petering out to a quiet conclusion.

That was, until, just as the clock ticked into injury time, final Spain sub Santi Cazorla received the ball on the edge of the box; Alan Hutton tried to tackle him, but got it all wrong and tripped him over. Penalty to Spain.

Xabi Alonso would take the kick to McGregor’s right…

…and the Rangers stopper guessed right and parried the ball away!

Alonso would react quickly to fired the rebound goalwards…

…and McGregor would somehow managed to lift himself up and knock it away again with the tips of his fingers! Berra got to it first this time and fired it away to safety.

It was a frankly outrageous double save that would rightly be nominated for Save of the Tournament. A rare highlight for Scotland in what had otherwise been a game to forget. The final whistle blew shortly afterwards, and their Euros adventure was over once again.

It was a bit of a comedown after the highs of the previous two tournament runs, but there was also a sense that this was probably the furthest this Scotland team was going to go anyway. And they’d lost to one of the greatest national teams of all time, who had beaten better teams by bigger/similar margins before, and would indeed do so again to Italy in the final 4-0. So Scotland could take some solace in the fact they hadn’t been beaten that badly.

But, in truth, this wasn’t going to be a tournament that would last long in the memory; apart from the England game, their run would be just a footnote in Scottish football history. Anyway, it was over now, and next up would be the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; now that would certainly be a tournament worth qualifying for…


Yeah, not really much to be said here; not a game Scotland would ever stand much of a chance of winning. A slightly different game from the France game IOTL in that Spain manage to kill the game off sooner, and the late penalty is saved by McGregor, which I put in just to liven things up a bit.

The rest of the tournament goes the same as OTL; only change is Belgium losing to Portugal in the QFs in lieu of the Czechs, as this Belgium team wouldn't quite be on the same level as the later ones yet.

So, anyway, that dour tournament's done with; on to qualifying for 2014 next. Tune in next week to see if Scotland will be making it to Brazil!
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Euro 2012 was always a rather meh tournament IIRC so no surprise here then.

Given how league reform in Scotland takes place during the qualification run for Brazil 2014 here, will we get an update on that and if so, who are the lucky teams going up to the new expanded top flight? Hope we don't get the same playing four the same team four times in the league like we always seem to have. How a top flight of 16 using this format does look difficult to achieve.

Anyway, looking forward for the next update! :)
Euro 2012 was always a rather meh tournament IIRC so no surprise here then.

Given how league reform in Scotland takes place during the qualification run for Brazil 2014 here, will we get an update on that and if so, who are the lucky teams going up to the new expanded top flight? Hope we don't get the same playing four the same team four times in the league like we always seem to have. How a top flight of 16 using this format does look difficult to achieve.

Anyway, looking forward for the next update! :)
People say 2016 was the worst Euros of the 'modern era'; I say 2012 was worse simply because barely anything truly memorable happened. At least 2016 had Iceland knocking England out and Wales reaching the semis, plus a tonne of great long range goals.

And, yes, we will get an update on the league reform, though, given how potentially complicated things may get, I suspect we will maybe need a full chapter for it rather than a quick insert in-between chapters...
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2014 World Cup Qualifying

2014 World Cup Qualifying

Euro 2012 wasn’t going to be a tournament Scotland were going to remember that fondly, but, to be fair, the same could probably be said of most of the other teams there really. Apart from Spain, obviously, and possibly also Belgium, whose qualification for this tournament after a ten year gap would mark the beginning of their ‘golden generation’.

Jimmy Calderwood and Scotland would find themselves drawn against that Belgium team in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; also in that group would be Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia and, in a draw that generated a great deal of excitement and anticipation, Wales. Many called this the ‘group of death’ of the UEFA qualifiers…

This would also likely be the final campaign for many stalwarts of this Scotland team, many of whom, such as Miller, McFadden and Gary Caldwell, were starting to age out (Miller had just left Cardiff for Vancouver Whitecaps). Darren Fletcher would also be missing most of the campaign due to his illness; Alan McGregor would thus be continuing as captain with Scott Brown as deputy.

Scotland would begin the qualifying campaign with a home double header, Hungary and Macedonia both at Hampden. Neither would be a game to remember for the Tartan Army. Firstly, the Hungary game would end in a very drab goalless draw, the first Scotland had experienced in qualifying for many years, with both teams sadly getting booed off at half and full time.

Just a few days later, things would get a lot worse for Calderwood and his team, as Nikolce Noveski gave Macedonia the lead after just eleven minutes. Miller would thankfully equalise on the stroke of half time, before a second half goal from substitute Shaun Maloney would prove enough to give Scotland the victory. Not a convincing one though.

A month later, the next double header would both be away games. Firstly, the much anticipated game against Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium, the first time the two had met in qualifying since the infamous 1986 World Cup qualifier that had seen Scotland squeak into the play-offs at their hosts’ expense, but which had been very much overshadowed by the tragic death afterwards of Jock Stein. Needless to say, much of the pre-game discussion was about that game and how Wales would be out for revenge…

Things went Scotland’s way at first, as they dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead through a long range belter from James Morrison just before the half hour. However, they failed to add to their lead, and it would come back to bite them when, with ten minutes to go, Wales were awarded a penalty after Gareth Bale was brought down by Brown (an incident the Celtic man barely managed to conceal his anger about!); the man in question would convert the penalty, and then deliver a killer blow with a second with just three minutes to go. Wales 2 Scotland 1.

Not what Scotland needed ahead of the game against the dangerous Belgium in Brussels a few days later. But, to be fair, they defended well against the relentless Belgian attacks in the first half, and were deservedly level at half time, if a tad fortuitously. Belgium would go for the jugular in the second half though, and goals from Benteke and Kompany would deliver the win.

The result left Scotland already six points behind the Belgians and Croatia, and already they couldn’t really afford any more slip ups if they were to pull back the deficit. There was much speculation that Calderwood might be replaced as manager ahead of the next round of fixtures the following year, but the SFA stuck by their man. For now…

First game of the new year, the return leg against Wales at Hampden. Like last time, a capacity crowd produced a superb atmosphere inside the stadium, and both BBC Scotland and S4C would be covering the game.

Sadly, the first half didn’t live up to the hype, with both teams cancelling each other out really, and a goalless draw at half-time looked on the cards. Until, in first half stoppage time, a corner taken by Snodgrass would find Grant Hanley, who quickly fired past Wayne Hennessey to give Scotland the lead!

Once again, though, Wales would bite back in the second half, and it would be from the penalty spot again that they would level, this time Aaron Ramsey the scorer. And, just two minutes later, Bale would catch Scotland on the break and swipe forward to Hal Robson-Kanu, who fired past McGregor to give a faint sense of déjà vu to Scotland.

With Scotland desperately searching an equaliser, the veteran striker Miller would be taken off, and be replaced by a young Hibs striker making his competitive debut for his country, Leigh Griffiths. No sooner had he come on, Scotland would get a free kick on the half way line; Snodgrass would take it, and young Mr Griffiths found the ball first and, with his first touch of the game, fired it past Hennessey!

Despite both teams’ best efforts, that would be the last goal of a great game. But, despite the magic moment, it was nonetheless more dropped points for Scotland, which meant victory over Hungary in Budapest a few days later would be essential to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

The resulting game would be much better than their first game at Hampden, but that wasn’t saying much, and, again, it was still goalless at half time. Just before the hour mark, though, Daniel Bode would give the Magyars the lead, and Scotland’s World Cup hopes looked very much out. Even more so when Hungary would get a penalty just minutes later; thankfully, McGregor came to the rescue as he produced a great save to deny Zoltan Gera.

Leigh Griffiths would duly come on for Steven Fletcher, with Calderwood no doubt hoping for a repeat of his instant impact against Wales; but it would be the other Steven, Naismith, who would find the equaliser in the 78th minute. Scotland would push hard for a winner, but Griffiths’ late shot was saved brilliantly by Adam Bogdan.

The game ended 1-1, and, with it, Scotland’s World Cup hopes were more or less over, as Croatia’s win over Wales the same day left them (and Belgium) ten points ahead of the Scots with four games to go. A few days later, to the surprise of hardly anyone, Jimmy Calderwood stepped down as Scotland manager by mutual consent.

He would quickly be succeeded by Gordon Strachan, who was a popular choice even among fans on the blue side of Glasgow, as it seemed natural for him to be taking on the role now he’d done pretty much all he could at club level.

His first game in charge would be away in Zagreb, a game Scotland had to win to keep their slim World Cup hopes alive. And win they did, as a single first half goal from Snodgrass proved the only one of an otherwise dour game.

Scotland could still make it, but they’d have to win all their remaining games and hope Croatia didn’t win any more of theirs. It seemed a tall order, and indeed their chances wouldn’t last beyond the next game, Belgium at home. Despite a valiant effort, Belgium’s attackers would once again prove too much, with a first half strike from Steven Defour and a late one from Kevin Mirallas gave the visitors another 2-0 win.

So Scotland were out of the World Cup, and their last two games would be purely for pride. Firstly, Macedonia away, with Strachan fielding a much changed line-up to the Belgium game; among those changes was a first start for Ikechi Anya, who duly scored one of three goals, alongside Brown and Maloney, as Scotland ran out 3-1 winners in Skopje.

A month later, the qualifying campaign ended with the return leg against play-off bound Croatia and Hampden. And Strachan and his team would go out on a high, as goals from Snodgrass in the first half and Naismith in the second gave them a second victory over the visitors, which ultimately meant nothing other than they finished third in the group only two points behind them.

2014 WC Qualifying.PNG

The final table for Group A

It was, of course, a disappointing comedown after the success of the past few years, but there was also a feeling that this Scotland team, many of whose key players were starting to age out, were always going to find it difficult in a pretty stacked group. That said, those two wins over Croatia had produced a slight sense of what could’ve been.

The campaign would also be the end of the line for many of the stalwarts of Scotland’s previous successes, with Miller, Caldwell and McFadden both announcing their international retirements. But at least they could do so in the knowledge that there were up and coming players ready to step into their shoes, ahead of Euro 2016 qualifying…


Yep, sorry folks, not to be again. But to be fair, this was always going to be a tough group to qualify from, especially given that the Scotland squad wasn't at its best around this time, with quite a few players either being phased out or breaking in. Plus, 2014 was such a great World Cup, I kinda don't want to change anything about it.

For the record, Serbia are now in Group G, but finish third behind Bosnia and France, who, like Scotland, are ranked higher thanks to their better previous tournaments than OTL, and thus make a pretty straight forward swap with Greece, while Slovakia take Hungary's place in Group D. In short, nothing changes, the same thirteen teams qualify as OTL.

Anyway, this TL will now take a sabbatical of sorts for Christmas; next Wednesday's update will be a lengthier than usual league update focussing on the formation of the SPFL. The Wednesday after, I may decide to do another mini off-topic focussing on another matter that arose around that time, or I may decide to just touch on it briefly in the next proper update, in which case, I'll be taking that week off. Whatever the case, the TL proper will resume on January the 5th with Euro 2016 qualifying.

So, tune back in next week to see how the newly formed SPFL lines-up...
2012-13 and 13-14 in the Scottish (and English) leagues
2012-13 and 13-14 in Scottish league football
Scotland might have been having a tough time of it on the international stage during 2013, but, domestically, there was much excitement, ahead of the much-anticipated reformation of the Scottish league system…

The Brown report, led by the former Scotland manager and advisor to the SFA board Craig Brown, had recommended that the Scottish Premier League and the SFL be merged back together to form the SPFL, and a new Lowland League be formed to act as a fourth tier running alongside the Highland League (the original proposals were for a ‘Conference’ style fourth tier to act as a go-between for the SPFL and Highland/Lowland leagues, but this was abandoned following concerns about travel expenses). The new SPFL would consist of three tiers, a ‘Premiership’ consisting of 16 teams, and two lower tiers of 12 teams, which would cut the number of ‘league’ teams to 40.

Despite some opposition, the proposals were approved by the member clubs of the two bodies in question, and would come into effect from the 2013-14 season.

There was, however, the small matter of how the final standings of the 2012-13 season would determine the line-up for the new look league the following season. After some thorough discussion, the following was decided:

Premier League
12th: relegated to 2013-14 SPFL League One

First Division
1st to 5th: promoted to 2013-14 SPFL Premiership
6th to 10th: play in 2013-14 SPFL League One

Second Division
1st to 5th: promoted to 2013-14 SPFL League One
6th to 9th: play in 2013-14 SPFL League Two
10th: play-off with 8th and 9th in Third Division, losers relegated to Highland/Lowland League

Third Division
1st: promoted to 2013-14 SPFL League One
2nd to 7th: promoted to 2013-14 SPFL League Two
8th and 9th: play-off with 10th in Second Division, losers relegated to Highland/Lowland League
10th: relegated to Highland/Lowland League

Again, the plans received the approval of most clubs, though some in the Second Divison weren’t too enthused by the prospect of potentially losing their league status from the division above; this was apparently done to try and ensure there was still something for those teams to play for late on in the season.

And so, with the restructuring plans approved, and the relegation/promotion system for the new season decided, the final season under the new format began…

As expected, Celtic, now managed by Neil Lennon, comfortably won a second successive Premier League title, and made it a double after victory over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final, thus denying Tony Mowbray a trophy as Dons manager before he stepped down to be replaced by Derek McInnes. The Dons would also finish second in the league as well, with Motherwell a very narrow third. Rangers, whose squad had been decimated in order to pay off their debts following their administration, endured a tough season on and off the pitch, and ended up finishing fourth.

The League Cup would go to St Mirren, which thus gave the Buddies a reasonable consolation for when they finished bottom of the league, thus ensuring they would not be playing in the new Premiership next season…

In the First Division, the five top half teams who would be going up to the Premiership the next season were, in order: Partick Thistle, Greenock Morton, Falkirk, Dundee and Livingston.

In the Second Division, Queen of the South, Airdrie United (subsequently renamed Airdrieonians), Alloa Athletic, Brechin City and Forfar Athletic would be promoted to League One, as would Third Division winners Stranraer.

East Stirlingshire, who finished bottom of the Third Division, would lose their league status, while the play-offs would be contested by Albion Rovers, who’d finished bottom of the Second Division, and Annan Athletic and Clyde, who’d finished eight and ninth in the Third Division. Annan would lose out after losing to both teams, and would be joining the Shire in the Lowland League.

Under the new format, the Premiership would last just 30 games, with both teams only playing each other twice; this did mean, however, no midweek games, which was a relief for many due to the easing of fixture congestion, and a fortnight’s break in early January, which had been abandoned a few years prior. TPTB, however, did not rule out increasing the league to 18 teams in the future should such an opportunity present itself…

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The line-up for the 2013-14 Scottish Premiership

The lower leagues, meanwhile, would be following the old SPL format of three rounds of fixtures against each other, followed by a split and five games against those in your own half of the draw. Also, a relegation play-off between the team that finished bottom of League Two and the winners of the Highland and Lowland leagues would be introduced from the following season…

2013-14 Scottish L1.PNG

2013-14 Scottish L2.PNG

The line-ups for Leagues 1 and 2

There was much excitement heading into the first season of the new format as to how it would work. At the end of it, the verdict was: yes, it had worked reasonably well, and the new format of fewer games allowing for longer rests for teams had gone down very well with the Premiership teams. The lower league teams, who were used to playing teams four games a season, didn’t complain about the split format nearly as much as the ‘bigger’ teams in the Prem had before…

Neil Lennon’s Celtic would ultimately win the first Premiership title, and a third in a row for them, comfortably, losing only once in the league all season, to Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Derek McInnes would have a successful first season with the Dons, finishing second and winning the League Cup, their first silverware for 19 years. And St Johnstone would also be celebrating after winning their first ever silverware in that season’s Scottish Cup.

Rangers, meanwhile, endured another difficult season, finishing fifth behind Motherwell and Dundee United, and also suffered their heaviest ever home Old Firm defeat, as Celtic ran out 5-0 winners at Ibrox.

Their cup form may have been disappointing, but as far as league form was concerned, Neil Lennon and Celtic were comfortably dominating, and, although it was still some years off, almost all of the fanbase were convinced that, with Rangers indisposed, they could finally reach the Holy Grail of 10 in a row…

SPL: Celtic
Relegated: St Mirren
Promoted: Partick Thistle, Greenock Morton, Falkirk, Dundee, Livingston
Scottish Cup: Celtic
Scottish League Cup: St Mirren

Premiership: Celtic
Relegated: Livingston, Greenock Morton
Promoted: St Mirren, Hamilton Academical
Scottish Cup: St Johnstone
Scottish League Cup: Aberdeen

English League Honours

Premier League: Manchester United
Relegated: Wigan, Reading, QPR
Promoted: Cardiff, Wolves, Crystal Palace
FA Cup: Wigan
League Cup: Swansea

Premier League: Manchester City
Relegated: Norwich, Fulham, Cardiff
Promoted: Leicester, Burnley, QPR
FA Cup: Arsenal
League Cup: Manchester City


So here we are with the new look SPFL! I was planning to do maps to show the line-ups, but they were just too fiddly to put together, so I did stadium lists instead; if anyone has any advice on how to do those Wikipedia maps, do let me know...

Anyway, haven't decided yet if I'm going to do that other post I mentioned next week; if not, we shall resume on January the 5th with Euro 2016 qualifying...
I can PM you on how to do the map list which is actually fairly easy once you know how to do it.

Anyway, wonder if any team other than Rangers, who probably don't challenge anyone until at least another season or two unless they get a purchase here, will challenge Celtic for the title. Maybe Aberdeen don't waste the opportunity to make the most of it here and I can definitely see them getting at least another trophy or two as long as we don't get the OP Celtic side of Rodgers.
I can PM you on how to do the map list which is actually fairly easy once you know how to do it.

Anyway, wonder if any team other than Rangers, who probably don't challenge anyone until at least another season or two unless they get a purchase here, will challenge Celtic for the title. Maybe Aberdeen don't waste the opportunity to make the most of it here and I can definitely see them getting at least another trophy or two as long as we don't get the OP Celtic side of Rodgers.
Thanks, that would be much appreciated.
Offseason Extra: WI Scotland had beaten Croatia as well? (An Optional Retcon)
So, no main update this week as I said, but, to keep things going, here's something extra...

Earlier ITTL, Scotland didn't qualify for the 2006 World Cup; I wrote this solely because it didn't feel right that the Czech Golden Generation, who beat them in the play-offs, would never play at a WC. After I wrote that, however, I thought of a way how this could still happen and Scotland could still play at that tournament, and it involves another POD in 2002 WC qualification...

The first, of course, is the Belgium win that started TTL. The other involves the Croatia game at Hampden, which IOTL and TTL ends goalless. What, however, if Scotland had managed the single goal needed to win that game? In that scenario, Scotland would top the group and go straight through to the WC, relegating Croatia to the play-offs...

2002 WC Qualifying ALT.PNG

So Croatia now face the Czechs in the play-offs, and, while there's a good chance they'd probably beat them and qualify anyway, lets just say, on this occasion, the Czechs go pull off the victory which allows them to join Scotland in the Far East.

That puts them in Group G alongside Italy, Ecuador and Mexico, a tough group, and I'd probably say they fall there like Croatia did. Scotland's TTL results, meanwhile, remain unaffected.

We then come to 2006, however, and things go the same as previously ITTL, except that, when the play-off comes, Scotland are this time able to edge out the Czechs to secure a place at a third WC in a row.

This means they go into Group E alongside Italy (again), Ghana and the USA. Alas, for the second tournament in a row, it's not to be for Walter Smith's side, who start off well with a victory over the Americans, but then narrowly lose a close game to Ghana, before another defeat to Italy ends their tournament. (So, basically, the same results as the Czechs IOTL; I mean, if Ghana can beat that brilliant Czech team, they can certainly beat Scotland as well)

2006 WC Group Stage ALT.PNG

In short, then, all that really changes is that Scotland get to play at an extra World Cup at Croatia's expense. The 2006 group stage defeat would probably result in many jibes from the English about 2002 being a one-off and how it'll never happen again for Scotland... and then Euro 2008 happens!

So, anyway, that's a little optional extra. You can pretend that's what happened earlier ITTL if you want; if I ever redux the timeline, I'll make it official.

Anyway, back to business as usual next week, as we head into qualifying for Euro 2016. And we also have another little matter to touch in on briefly as well...
Euro 2016 Qualifying

Euro 2016 Qualifying

Scotland’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup had been disappointing, but there was a feeling that a team relying somewhat on players starting to age out was probably going to struggle in a group as tough as theirs. Plus, their performances had improved somewhat following the arrival of Gordon Strachan as manager, and there was plenty of up and coming players ready to step up to replace those who had retired at the end of the unsuccessful campaign.

The first test for the new look squad was qualification for Euro 2016, the first 24 team Euros, meaning third place would be enough for the play-offs, which might’ve made it a bit easier for a Scotland team in a transition period. Again, though they’d found themselves drawn in a somewhat stacked group, alongside international newcomers Gibraltar, Georgia, Poland, the Republic of Ireland and newly crowned World champions Germany.

And it would be against Der Mannschaft that Strachan et al would kick off the campaign. In an excellent game in Dortmund, the Germans would take the lead via Thomas Muller, but Scotland would respond well and defend valiantly for the rest of the first half.

Early in the second half, Robert Snodgrass would come off to be replaced by Ikechi Anya; it was a change that would pay instant dividends as the Watford man would, against the run of play, rifle in a spectacular equaliser! Sadly, Muller would subsequently score a second to make it 2-1, which would be enough to win the game, but it had been a fine performance for Scotland, that bode well for the rest of the campaign.

Scotland’s first home game of the campaign would be at Ibrox, as Hampden wasn’t ready for use after the Commonwealth Games yet. The opponents would be Georgia, seven years on from the famous narrow victory that helped them qualify for Euro 2008.

This time, things would be much easier for Scotland, with goals from the Stevens Fletcher and Naismith and an Akaki Khubutia own goal giving Strachan’s team their first points of the campaign.

Three days later, Scotland were on their travels again, this time to Warsaw to play Poland, in what was seen as a crucial game in the fight for second and third place. A good game would follow, Krzysztof Maczynski giving the hosts the lead, but Shaun Maloney would equalise just seven minutes later. Naismith would then give Scotland the lead early in the second half, but Arkadiusz Milik would pull the hosts level again, and a 2-2 draw was a fair result.

The final game of 2014 would be against Ireland at Celtic Park (Hampden still wasn’t ready yet), and was widely seen as another crucial key game in the group. And it would be the hosts who would triumph in a very even contest, Maloney scoring the only goal of the game with fifteen minutes remaining.

Come the New Year, and Scotland would finally be back at Hampden; their opponents would be the international rookies Gibraltar. Strachan’s team were expected to comfortably win this one, and indeed they would, despite a scare when Lee Casciaro equalised just a minute after Maloney opened the scoring from the penalty spot (not the first time he’d score a famous goal against a Scottish team); thankfully, another from Maloney, one from Naismith and a Steven Fletcher hat trick would deliver victory.

A few months later, Scotland would begin the return leg of the campaign away in Dublin. Again, it would be a closely fought game against the Republic, who would strike first through Jon Walters, but Scotland would draw level early in the second half when Maloney’s shot was deflected in off John O’Shea. Despite both team’s best efforts, no goals came, and it would end 1-1.

The result left Scotland third on 11 points, with Ireland just behind on 9, and Poland and Germany leading the group on 14 and 13 respectively.

Next up for Scotland, they would return to Tblisi to face Georgia in the same stadium that had seen that famous late victory eight years earlier. And a sense of déjà vu seemed to be occurring for the Tartan Army, as the hosts would frustrate them during the first half, before Valeri Qazaishvili gave them the lead seven minutes before half time.

Once again, however, Scotland would come out fighting in the second half, and, also once again, it would be two Celtic substitutes who would deliver the goods, firstly James Forrest would equalise just before the hour mark, before Leigh Griffiths scored a spectacular free kick winner with ten minutes remaining. 2-1 it would end.

The win kept Scotland very much in the group heading into the second game against the Germans, exactly a year to the day since the previous one. Once again, it would be Thomas Muller would opened the scoring for the World Champions, but Scotland would be level ten minutes later after after Neuer’s clearance from a free kick hit Hummels and went back in! Muller would restore the lead just five minutes later though, but James McArthur, starting in lieu of an unwell Darren Fletcher, would equalise again just before the break!

The Germans would ultimately win the game, Ilkay Gundogan scoring the winner early in the second half, but it had been another superb showing from Scotland, which boded well heading into the final two games; win both, and the play-off spot would be theirs.

First up, Poland at Hampden. And things started badly for Strachan’s team when Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring after just three minutes. But Matt Ritchie score a spectacular equaliser just before half time, and then Steven Fletcher would give Scotland the lead just after the hour mark.

Alas, Lewandowski would score a second and equalise in stoppage time, and the resulting draw, coupled with Ireland’s shock 1-0 win over the Germans, meant they now led Scotland in the group with 18 points to 15; that said, Scotland’s superior head-to-head record meant they would overtake them if they beat Gibraltar and Poland did them a favour and beat the Irish.

Playing at the Estadio Algarve in Portugal, Scotland would indeed triumph again over the minnows, once again scoring six goals, including a goal on his competitive debut for Derby’s Chris Martin and another Steven Fletcher hat trick.

Which left them awaiting news from Warsaw, and Scotland were soon celebrating when the final whistle there gave Poland a 2-1 win over Ireland which meant Scotland had snuck into the play-offs on head-to-head record!

Euro 2016 Qualifying.PNG

The final table for Group D

Scotland would be drawn against Bosnia & Herzegovina in said play-offs, a draw which they would probably have been considered the underdogs for. However, a 1-1 draw in Zenica, with Darren Fletcher a very popular goalscorer before Dzeko equalised, ensured Scotland were in the driving seat ahead of the return leg at Hampden.

And Strachan and his team would indeed get the job done there, with a Steven Fletcher double making it 3-1 on aggregate, and ensuring that, for the first time since the 1958 World Cup, all four Home Nations would be playing at the same tournament…

to be continued…


Happy New Years folks! We kick off 2022 with a pretty straight forward chapter with just a single major change, Scotland beating Georgia again, allowing them to qualify at Ireland's expense like they really should've IOTL (apologies to The Irish Guy if he ever reads this). Not much else to say there really, except we'll be starting to see some of the current Scotland stalwarts entering the fray from now on...

I also had a brief section about IndyRef in here in the original post, but I decided to remove it in case it violated the modern politics rules. I'll simply say this: Scotland still votes no, but by a smaller margin than OTL, as I don't think it's unreasonable that the team doing better over the past years would push the vote up a few points; the closer result results in more butterflies further down the line. If enough are interested in more details, I'll post some in the chat section.

Anyway, another league update next Tuesday...

in which, I can reveal, at least one trophy will be won by a different team to OTL
...before we head to France next Wednesday...
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Mmm, rather keep current politics out though kinda rich of me saying that as I have touched upon in from my own TL, though you'll see the hinted politics there are all radically different compared to OTL.

Anyway back on topic, always so painful of how close we came to actually making it that campaign, nice to see that we make it here. Who would we get grouped into here again?
Mmm, rather keep current politics out though kinda rich of me saying that as I have touched upon in from my own TL, though you'll see the hinted politics there are all radically different compared to OTL.

Anyway back on topic, always so painful of how close we came to actually making it that campaign, nice to see that we make it here. Who would we get grouped into here again?
Yeah, I didn't really want to bring politics into this TL, but I also didn't want the vote to be an elephant in the room, so I thought I'd give it a brief acknowledgement and nothing more.

Same group as Ireland IOTL, Belgium, Italy and Sweden.
2014-15 and 15-16 in the Scottish (and English) leagues
2014-15 and 15-16 in Scottish league football
2014-15 would be a most unremarkable season in league football, with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea winning the English Premier League at a canter, and the League Cup too, and they'd have probably won the FA Cup as well were it not for a shock fourth round defeat to League One Bradford City.

In Scotland, Neil Lennon's Celtic would manage what the Blues couldn't. Despite some ropey early season form, including a home defeat to newly promoted Hamilton, they would win the Premiership reasonably comfortably, though Derek McInnes and Aberdeen would make a reasonable go of it for a while; they had already won the League Cup, beating Dundee United 2-0 in the final, and would complete the treble with a 2-0 win over Falkirk in the Scottish Cup final, having previously beaten Inverness Caley Thistle 2-1 in an enthalling semi-final.

That they hadn't been on that good form throughout the season but still managed a treble still seemed to reinforce belief among the Celtic fans that they could dominate for years to come...

Rangers would endure another tough season, finishing fourth behind the Bhoys, the Dons and Robbie Neilson's Hearts, but had at least finally managed to clear up the majority of their financial difficulties, which meant they'd finally be able to start building a team to challenge again. Ally McCoist, who had loyally stood by the club to lead them through the tough times, stepped aside at the end of the season; he would be replaced by sacked Brentford boss Mark Warburton, the first ever English Rangers manager.

As the next season began, most commentators on both sides of the border said they expected more of the same, with the two clubs winning their respective leagues comfortably again...

And then Chelsea went and capitulated completely, with Mourinho getting fired just before Christmas. And who won the League in their place, but 5,000-1 outsiders LEICESTER CITY!

It was an utterly incredible feat. But, as amazing as the Foxes' win was, the Scottish Premiership would arguably top it...

At first, things went according to plan for Celtic, who started the season strongly, winning all their opening fixtures. But then came the Old Firm at Ibrox, and Mark Warburton's Rangers would stun Neil Lennon's side with a 2-1 victory, their first Old Firm victory since the 2011-12 season.

This defeat seemed to knock the momentum out of Celtic, who suddenly started dropping points against lesser opposition, including a home defeat to Ross County. And, before they knew it, Derek McInnes and Aberdeen, who had been steadily but not spectacularly staying within touching distance of the Bhoys, had caught up with them at the top.

The two teams would remain mostly on level terms until March, when Rangers hosted Aberdeen; in a major statement of intent, the Dons would triumph 2-1, their first win at Ibrox in 25 years. The following week came the second Old Firm of the season, this time at Parkhead; this time, Celtic would avoid defeat to their bitter rivals, that game ended 1-1.

In his post match interview, however, Neil Lennon would launch a vicious attack on, not just Rangers, but the other teams in the league as well, angrily accusing them of trying harder against his side than they did against the Dons. He didn't quite go the full Kevin Keegan and say he'd love it if they beat them, but he might as well have done!

One international break later, Celtic would travel to Pittodrie, and the home side would duly triumph 2-1 thanks to a late winning goal from substitute Paul Quinn. The win gave Aberdeen a three point lead at the top of the table. The following weekend, Neil Lennon's team would face Rangers again in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup; an enthralling hame would end 2-2, but it would be Mark Warburton's team who triumphed on penalties, though they would go on to lose the final to Hibs. Shortly after this defeat, Neil Lennon confirmed he would be stepping down as Celtic manager at the end of the season whatever happened in the League.

By the time of the final round of fixtures, the Dons lead Celtic by two points; victory over Ross County would ensure a historic league triumph, and render Celtic's result away at Kilmarnock irrelevant.

On a dramatic day at Pittodrie, Ross County would twice take the lead through Liam Boyce, but goals from Graeme Shinnie and Adam Rooney would twice pull the Dons level. Despite their best efforts, the game would end 2-2, thus leaving them awaiting news from Rugby Park.

The news soon came through: Kilmarnock had taken the lead through Josh Magennis, but Celtic had equalised through Leigh Griffiths. The Bhoys had had numerous chances to win the game, but hadn't taken them; final score 1-1! ABERDEEN HAD DONE IT!

As the news filtered through, the fans spilled onto the pitch at Pittodrie, and Derek McInnes and the players found themselves swarmed! The enormity of what they had just acheived didn't quite sink in for some time afterwards. This was, arguably, a bigger shock and achievement than Leicester's win had.

For Celtic though, it would be a massive embarrassment. They had just blown the best chance any club in Scotland was ever likely to get to win ten league titles in a row; victory in the League Cup a few months earlier was no consolation at all.

Neil Lennon duly stepped aside as Celtic manager, his reputation among the fans slightly soured, but still very much in the higher echelons of the club's legends. A big statement of intent appointment was needed to wrest back control, and the board knew just the man they wanted to do just that...

Scottish Premiership:
Relegated: St Mirren, Falkirk
Promoted: Queen of the South, Raith Rovers
Scottish Cup: Celtic
Scottish League Cup: Celtic

Scottish Premiership: Aberdeen
Relegated: Dundee United, Queen of the South
Promoted: Falkirk, Greenock Morton
Scottish Cup: Hibernian
Scottish League Cup: Celtic

English League Honours

Premier League: Chelsea
Relegated: Wolves, Burnley, QPR
Promoted: Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich
FA Cup: Arsenal
League Cup: Chelsea

Premier League: Leicester City
Relegated: Sunderland, Norwich, Aston Villa
Promoted: Burnley, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday
FA Cup: Manchester United
League Cup: Manchester City


Well, how about that then?! I don't remember whether I was planning this before QTX did his thing on the Alternate Results thread, but the general idea is the same! Has Scottish league football just changed forever? We shall have to wait and find out!

A few changes in the English leagues you may notice as well; I'll explain those further down the line.

Anyway, I need a rest after all that! Tomorrow, we head to France as Scotland begin their Euro 2016 adventure!
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Aberdeen winning the league I fully endorse and I say that as a Celtic fan Derek McInnes was a great manager who did miracles in Grampian in OTL and deserved more than he got. Please don't let Mourinho be the next Celtic boss I'm begging you.
You made Neil Lennon into this TL's Kevin Keegan! :p Though funnily enough even though much like with OTL of being thought of as the man who blew 10IAR, this is actually a better fate for him at Celtic compared thr utter shambles of OTL's last season.

I do wonder how Aberdeen will get on in CL qualifiers here, can't see them getting into the group stage but more plausible is group stage of the EL. Then again maybe thanks to the momentum from winning the league Aberdeen do reach the CL group stage and if so, the money they'd get would utterly transform them, hell their new stadium might be brought forward.

With Rangers I think the problem with them when they got back up was not just the pressure of trying to win the league but had to go up against a rampant Celtic that no one in the league could stop. Maybe with Rangers now having top flight experience here might actually see them do a little better? I could see them winning one of the cups depending on how Celtic and Aberdeen get on too though I'm certain the latter will win another trophy soon.

Honestly, the butterflies of Aberdeen winning the league is crazy that I don't know where to begin. Looking forward to see what happens next!
Euro 2016, Part 1

Euro 2016, Part 1

2016 had been a most remarkable year for British football, with both the English and Scottish leagues had been won by outsiders; but the bigger party was to come as, for the first time since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, all four of the Home Nations would be competing at the same tournament!

The fact that Wales and Northern Ireland had qualified for their first tournaments in many years, as well as rank outsiders such as Iceland and Albania reaching their first ever, was, as far as TPTB were concerned, proof that their expansion of the tournament, which there had been many naysayers against, had been justified (even though all four would’ve/could’ve still qualified under the old format).

For Gordon Strachan and Scotland, at least, the new format had come in most useful as, with the squad very much transitioning into a new generation of players, many of whom were still finding their feet in the team. And the new format, which would allow the four highest scoring third placed teams to progress to the Round of 16, there was every chance their newfound run of knockout stage appearances could continue…

That said, they had found themselves drawn in a tough group, alongside Belgium, Italy and Sweden; their first game of the tournament would be against the Swedes at the Stade de France.

They would line up in the now favoured 4-1-2-1-2 formation, with Alan McGregor in goal, a back four of Alan Hutton (who had already announced his retirement from international duty after the tournament), Russell Martin, Grant Hanley and a competitive debut for Wolves left back Andrew Robertson, a midfield four of Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown (on the right), Robert Snodgrass and Shaun Maloney (for whom this would also be his international swansong) and the Stevens Naismith and Fletcher up front.

The game would start slowly between the two teams, and the first half would produce little of note as the two teams created chances, but cancelled each other out for the most part. It was still a decent half of football, though, so no-one really complained when the first half ended goalless; both had played decently.

Three minutes into the second half, however, Scotland, would get a corner; Robertson would take it, and the ball floated into the box to be met by Maloney, who rifled it nicely into the top corner! Scotland led 1-0 through an excellent set piece goal!

And they could’ve made it 2-0 just minutes later, but Naismith’s shot was this time saved by Andeas Isaksson.

After that, Sweden started to seize the initiative and push Scotland back in search of an equaliser. And that would indeed come with just under 20 minutes to go, when Ibrahimovic floated a ball into the box towards Sebastian Larsson; Hanley tried to beat him to it, but only managed to deflect into his own net. An unfortunate incident, but Sweden deserved the goal on balance.

Both sides had chances to take all three points, but ultimately 1-1 was a fair result to open the tournament with.

Up next for Scotland would be group seeds Belgium in Bordeaux. And sadly, it would be a game to forget for Strachan and his team, as the Red Devils would comfortably dominate the game, with a Romelu Lukaku double and one from Axel Witsel ensuring a 3-0 win. Scotland’s best chance would be a Leigh Griffiths free kick which forced a decent save out of Thibault Courtois.

Nonetheless, Scotland were still very much in the group. However, they would now need to beat Italy to reach the knockout stage.

This time playing in Lille, Strachan switched to a 4-2-3-1 this time, with Brown reverting to his natural central role alongside Darren Fletcher, Matt Ritchie coming in on the wing and Naismith dropping out leaving Steven Fletcher alone up top.

Their opponents, however, who were already through as group winners after their first two victories, fielded a slightly weakened team. Scotland certainly had a chance in this one.

And they certainly sensed it as, straight from the off, Scotland went for the jugular, forcing the Italians back and creating the bulk of the chances, however slight they were. On one occasion, Brown upfielded the ball to Ritchie, who had a good shot from the corner of the box which flew just wide of the post.

Half time came, and it was still 0-0, but almost everyone watching would agree Scotland had been the better team, and if one team was going to get a winning goal, it would likely be them.

As the second half began, though, it was more of the same, as Scotland pushed forwards dominating the vast majority of chances, but not taking them. On one occasion, Griffiths, on for Fletcher, received a nice through ball from Snodgrass, but his shot hit the post and fell into the hands of a relieved Salvatore Sirigu.

As the match entered the final ten minutes, it was still 0-0 and, as it stood, Scotland, and Sweden, who were also drawing 0-0 with Belgium, were both going out with two points, the lowest third place score whoever had it. But then, in the space of just a minute, everything changed…

Firstly, in the other game, Radja Nainggolan scored for Belgium, which ensured their passage into the knockout stage as it stood. As the news filtered through, Scotland got a second wind and pushed forwards once more.

Charlie Adam, on for Maloney, received the ball and tapped it forwards into the box. Several players went for it, but Snodgrass would get their first and, calm as you like, fired it home past Sirigu! Scotland lead 1-0!

Neither they or the Italians had any more real chances during the game; a cynical person might say they were both happy to sit on that result! Nonetheless, as the full time whistle went, the Scotland players and management all celebrated as they had secured the win to take them through to yet another knockout stage!

The final score soon came through from the other game; Belgium had also maintained their 1-0 lead, which meant they’d go through in second and Scotland as a high scoring third place. This meant their next game would be against a team Scotland had got used to playing, and getting big results against, over the past few years…

Euro 2016 Group Stage.PNG

Euro 2016 third place teams.PNG

The final table for Group E and rankings for the highest scoring third placers

to be continued…


So, here we are at the Euros, and another fairly straight forward chapter, with pretty much the same matches are Ireland IOTL. The same sort of performance I fancy Scotland might just have been capable of if they'd made it instead. Not much more to be said there, except we also got out first mention of a certain future captain in this TL! And no, Wolves instead of Hull isn't a typo; all the English league butterflies will be explained eventually. Speaking of which, I'm going to pop back to yesterday's league update and flesh things out a bit more, as it was written in a bit of a rush last night.

Anyway, France in the Round of 16 next week; can Scotland do it against Les Bleus again? Find out next week!
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