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Musings from St Andrews

The Scene in Scotland: An American Student's POV

The United States humiliated Scotland, 5-1, when the two clubs clashed in May 2012. Much has changed for Scotland in the last year and a half, but the country's passion for its football remains a constant.
BY Charlie Lasswell Posted
November 14, 2013
11:52 AM
IT'S NOT A GREAT TIME to be an American soccer fan in Scotland. I live as a student in the Scottish town of St Andrews, and here the national team is very serious business.

My most recent experience with Scottish football pride came when I went to watch Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Croatia at the local pub. A very angry, very drunk Scottish man came up to me and my Eastern European friend and asked very bluntly, “Are you lot Croatians?”

As a Spurs fan, I was actually interested in watching Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, but my friend and I cheered very enthusiastically after every Scottish goal, well aware of the Scotsmen monitoring our reaction. After the final whistle, barmaids came out with free meat pies for everyone, a man stood on a table waving the Scottish flag, and so my friend and I went along with it. We had a great night pretending to be Scottish.

But there will be none of that this time around.

The Scots have not forgotten their 5-1 loss to the United States last year, and revenge is on everyone’s mind. The Scottish FA’s website has the headline “REDEMPTION: SCOTLAND VS USA PART II.” I’ve heard terrible things said about Landon Donovan thanks to his hat trick in that match.

Scotland is a different team now, or at least everyone around town seems to be convinced that they are. Craig Levein was fired as manager around this time last year. (Before Scotland he managed Dundee United, who often train on the same pitches where I play Sunday League football. Scotland is tiny.) His tactics were usually considered too defensive, even for a Scottish football palate obsessed with crunching tackles and brave defensive efforts. This is, after all, the country that gave us Charlie Adam. People called for Levein to be sacked for years, but it took a really miserable beginning to the World Cup qualifying campaign for the Scottish FA to do anything.

New manager Gordon Strachan has effortlessly endeared himself to the Scottish people. Even before his appointment, he was a pundit for ITV, and his typically vapid halftime commentary always got approving murmurs from everyone in the pub. His hilarious narration of Arsene Wenger getting sent off for kicking a water bottle is worth watching for an idea of his casual demeanor.

Perhaps Strachan's greatest triumph came in a press conference, when he was photographed drinking IRN-BRU, a sort of orange soda-type beverage advertised as Scotland’s other national drink, behind whiskey. There is no quicker way to a Scotsman’s heart.

My Scottish friends are tentatively confident about Friday's match. Don, who works behind the bar down the street, loves to talk about Scotland’s glorious history in international football. He has a print of Camp Nou’s scoreboard reading DUNDEE UNITED 2 BARCELONA 1, and he’s giving out free pints if Scotland win Friday.

Don thinks Scotland can eventually qualify for its first World Cup since 1998 under Strachan, but his priority is clearly on avenging Scotland’s humiliating loss to the United States last year.

Some of my friends and I will be among the American Outlaws (who have sought shelter in a single pub in Glasgow) at Hampden Park and, unfortunately for the locals, I think we’ll be the ones cheering at the end.

This is Charlie Lasswell's first article for American Soccer Now.

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