Chapter 1: Stubbornness
“Nope, not happening in a million years and that's final!”
That’s was all what George Graham, Secretary of the SFA, would say to anyone when questioned if Scotland were going to play in the World Cup in Brazil later that year. He then says other various excuses why they team won’t go from reasons such as the bigger wages that were being offered to Scottish players in Brazil and Columbia leagues than at home to rather far more outrageous claims such as Hitler and the Nazis were hiding out in South America.
The truth being however was that FIFA, In honour of Britain’s status of creating the game, had offered the two top spots in that year’s Home Nations Championship to qualify for the Tournament and Graham had stated he’d only take the team to the World Cup Finals if they were British champions, unfortunately for them, a home defeat by England would see the English team get the top spot and the Scots getting second spot. Even though the Scots had still qualified for the world cup, Graham was sticking to his word of not going and thus announced to the higher ups at FIFA that Scotland would not take part in the World Cup.
In most situations after losing to the Auld Enemy, most Scottish supporters would start counting down to the next game to swear revenge on the English, but in these strange times the anger and rage was being directed towards the SFA and many English players being led by England captain Billy Wright pleaded to the SFA to allow their Scottish counterparts to join them on the trip to Brazil.
From him gazing out at of the window from his desk, he hears a knock on his door. “Enter,” Graham mutters with his gaze still fixed on the outside world.
“Good day, sir” says Robert Kirkwood, SFA treasurer, as he enters the room. “Fine day?”
“How I wish,” Graham replies sarcastically as Kirkwood sits down beside him. He finally takes his gaze off the window and looks over at the treasurer. “And losing to England isn’t really the main thing for once.”
“This World Cup,” Kirkwood replies. “Seems we aren’t hearing the end of it.”
Graham sighs and sinks back into his chair. “Bloody well right about that, it’s one thing that the team are willing to go and the English lads encouraging them, but it’s when our supporters start threating us to go to this…thing in Brazil. We’re like Panto villains right now and why does everyone think it’s that important?”
Kirkwood could see all this pressure is getting to the stubborn secretary and thinks of his next words carefully. “With all due respect sir, the Welsh and Irish agreed too that they’d only go to the World Cup if they were champions too, England weren’t part of the deal and would go regardless if I remember correctly?”
“Don’t think so,” Graham answered as he leaned back in his chair rubbing his forehead. “What are you getting at?”
Kirkwood then shows a small smile. “I’m saying that if England had finished second then they still would be packing their suitcases in this moment in time and getting ready to fly out to Brazil, makes us looks rather silly not doing this…for I say we should join them on that flight.” He pauses briefly as he then shows a serious expression. “I must also point out that there is quite a bit at stake for all of us in the Scottish FA that we should take this chance for good reason.”
Graham gives him a curious look. “How’d you mean?”
Kirkwood then fires off his idea. “I was speaking to Stanley Rous when our English friends came after Saturday’s game and word is that my place on the FIFA international board is in danger if we don’t go to Brazil.”
Graham, now interested leans forward in his chair. “…What else?”
“Stanley also stated that as secretary of the FA that he feels he could be the next FIFA president once Ivo Schricker retires after this World Cup and that Arthur Drewry, the England selector would get the chairman’s job.” Kirkwood now seems quite excited that he has at least gotten the SFA Secretary’s attention. “In conclusion, our English friends would be handing out favours to some damn fine jobs for us over the next few years…and that’s where you come in.”
“Like being higher up in FIFA?” Graham asks dumbfounded at this scheme.
“Oh, very much so,” Kirkwood nods. “Not to mention that Stanley believes this World Cup thing is going to be huge over the next few years and he says it would be an awful shame if we miss out on it, many of the big nations could be involved too.”
Graham now starts rubbing his chin in thought. “Don’t know, I’ve already said my word that we wouldn’t be going and if we changed our minds now, it would make me and everyone in these corridors here all look like right fools.”
“Not much so than what the players and the fans think of us in this moment in time?”
There is a long pause, Kirkwood has managed to pierce through Graham's stubborn armour.
“Right…what’d you think about this whole World Cup malarkey anyway?” Graham asks.
Kirkwood now smiles. “In my view? I think this sounds like it’ll be a right good jolly outing for us and would be a wonderful idea. I forgot to mention too that Flavio Costa, the Brazil manager was also one of our guests on Saturday and has pleaded with me for you to change your mind because he says the Brazilians would love to have us over.”
“Aye…to take our players!” Graham replies darkly.
“Sir please!” Kirkwood pleads. “He had travelled all the way from South America just to beg with you to take this offer, please consider it, don’t make it feel like he had a wasted trip.”
Graham sighs once again and sinks into his chair, he clearly isn’t going to get out of this.
“I’ll let you think about it,” Kirkwood says and promptly leaves the room in the hope that just maybe, Scotland would be playing in Brazil.
On the other hand, Graham now turns his gaze back at the window and ponders what Kirkwood has said. He would now have to make a choice and the perhaps the future of the Scottish game lay in his hands.
About a week later, Scotland had played Switzerland in a friendly at home winning 3-1, but despite a good victory the discontent from the fans had become more vocal with them wanting to go to the World Cup. The Stubborn George Graham had been at the game and had seen first-hand the crowd throwing insults at him and other members of the SFA like rotten fruit. As he walked down one of the corridors of Hampden, he thought about it and interestingly he wasn’t trying to figure out another excuse of not going such as flight costs, wages and what not, but in truth about Robert Kirkwood’s position on the FIFA international board.
Although he’d admit that there were several characters in the SFA he’d have an axe to grind with and would've been happy to see the back off, Kirkwood was to him one of the few, if not the only, voice of reason in the Scottish Football Association and had a close friendship with him. If it was true that if Scotland were not to go and Kirkwood would lose his position, it would all be Graham’s stubbornness that would be his downfall and he would take all the blame. He didn’t want to be remembered throughout history as a villain and if this World Cup was to really take off and Scotland were to lose out on it, it would still be his fault. It seemed like there was no way out for him and that they would have to go out and do it.
“George!” Cried out a familiar voice. Graham turned around and saw Kirkwood running down the corridor with a worried look on his face.
“What’s the matter?” Graham asked.
Kirkwood then stopped running and looked at him straight dead in the eyes. “Listen, I don’t care if you say we don’t go to the World Cup, I’m afraid to say we have too or we’re in trouble.”
“You mean we lose our FIFA licence or something?” Graham asked visibly confused.
“What about them?”
Kirkwood then begins. “Well, it would appear that for some time now of the discrepancy between the number of match tickets we put out for sale for the public and the number of them printed. After some looking into it, it appears that more than 6,000 out of 134,000 tickets for the England game that were printed were not passed on for general sale.”
Graham now looks worried. “That’s a hell of a lot of money lost for the association, but surely the cup finals and international matches can cover it, right?”
“Sadly not,” Kirkwood corrects shaking his head, “It’s the same for them too for losing money, in fact it’s been happening for quite a while now and we’ve been blind to it all this time.”
“God almighty,” Graham groans. If he already didn’t have an axe to grind with anyone in the SFA, he surely had a bigger one to grind now. “So, what does the World Cup got to do with this then?”
“Simple really,” Kirkwood replies, “we go to Brazil not just to play, but claw most of our lost revenue…it is our only hope I’m afraid.”
A long silence hangs in the air in that corridor with the SFA secretary thinking it over. There was nowhere to go, he would look foolish after all that he had said before, but with money woes within the SFA, he has to do something. After what feels like a century, the stubborn George Graham now says perhaps one of the most famous words ever stated in Scottish football folklore.
“Fine, we go…just let me get me dinner first.”