I was only Scotland fan in stadium for historic win

I was only Scotland fan in stadium for historic win

Gordon Howat was among thousands of Tartan Army foot soldiers who travelled to France for the 1998 World Cup – the last time the men’s team took part in a major tournament.

But 22 years later he was the only Scotland supporter in the Rajko Mitic stadium as victory over Serbia saw the national side book its place in next year’s European Championships.

Mr Howat, from Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, has been a pitch consultant for Red Star Belgrade – who play in the stadium – since 2017.

He joked: “Sometimes you have to call in a favour and arrange a visit at the right time.”

Mr Howat was spotted in the main stand with his saltire by BBC Scotland sports news correspondent Chris McLaughlin before the match.

They met up again on Friday morning to reflect on an unforgettable night.

Mr Howat said the victory over Serbia had been “a great moment”.

“I’m sure it was big back home in Scotland, despite lockdown,” he said.

The father-of-two admitted he was “shaky with nerves” during the match, which ended 1-1 after extra time.

He added: “It was a massive disappointment in the 89th minute but we were fortunate to turn it around.

“I think if nothing else, the law of averages was on our side last night and we were due a little bit of luck.”

Mr Howat’s memory of the thrilling finale mirrors the clip that rapidly became a social media sensation.

He said: “The thing I noticed was that David Marshall was clearly looking at the referee to make sure he had made a fair save, but it was bedlam.

“The one thing I took was that because the stadium was so quiet you could really hear the player’s enjoyment.”

Mr Howat, who got so many messages his phone ran out of battery, said his post-match celebrations were tame by Tartan Army standards.

He added: “I had a couple of drinks in the stadium but there’s a lockdown here and the bar was closed at the hotel.”

On the significance of the result, he said: “Our generation understand it but it is all about the young ones.

“I have got girls, Lottie and Susa, they are seven and nine and a nephew, Kiefer, he is 13.

“I guess it’s all about them. They have no idea. It will be fantastic.”

The Tartan Army’s sole representative in Belgrade also welcomed the fact that two of Scotland’s three group games will be at Hampden.

He added: “It ticks all the boxes. We just need to hope the fans are there.”

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