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England’s St Valentine’s Day massacre of Scotland (1973)

Today we look back to February 14, 1973, when Scotland welcomed England to a snowy Hampden Park for a friendly to help celebrate the centenary of the Scottish FA. But it proved a Valentine’s Night to forget for the Scots, as England crushed their old rivals 5-0…

A decade after the Football Association had celebrated its centenary in 1963, the Scottish FA reached the same milestone. To begin the celebrations they wanted an extra helping of the oldest international fixture, with England making the trip to Hampden Park in February 1973 for a friendly. The match was to take place on Valentine’s Night, and what could stir the passions of the average Scot more than the visit of the loathed Sassenachs from south of the border? But ultimately it was to be a night to forget for the Scots and one to savour for the English.

To add to the celebratory spirit of the occasion, England captain Bobby Moore was to win his 100th cap in the days when that was a rare achievement. However, this was never going to be some testimonial-esque kickabout to celebrate that and the Scottish FA centenary. Most Scotsmen relished any chance to beat England – something they hadn’t done since 1967 – while England boss Sir Alf Ramsey was not exactly renowned as a lover of the Scots. It was to be a friendly in name only, with Scottish players keen to impress new manager Willie Ormond. He had replaced Tommy Docherty, who had been lured by First Division strugglers Manchester United.

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Bobby Moore goes back to school to celebrate reaching 100 England caps against Scotland.

The match would carry numerous quirks, including breaking the traditional alternating pattern of who hosted the fixture (Scotland had been the home side for the previous clash as well), providing a rare midweek meeting and meaning the sides would face each other twice in the same calendar year for the first time in official internationals. Snow had fallen and a crowd of 48,470 braved the wintry weather – a fair few no doubt risking being put in the doghouse for going there on Valentine’s Night rather than spending it with their other half – but this was well down on the usual attendances when the sides met annually in the Home International Championship.

Sir Alf calls it right

England were going into the match having scored just 13 goals in 11 matches, with the previous month bringing a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Wales in World Cup qualifying. Ramsey said: “It should be an easier game than the Welsh match at Wembley. The emphasis is on Scotland to attack at home.” The way the match panned out showed that, despite having an ever-increasing army of critics, Sir Alf could still call things spot on. It was one of their best attacking displays for a long time.

Within 16 minutes the game was effectively over. Peter Lorimer turned the ball into his own net before his Leeds United team-mate Allan Clarke scored past near-namesake Bobby Clark. Moments later a long-throw from Martin Chivers ended with Mike Channon putting England 3-0 up.

The scoring was put on hold until the second half, with England netting twice after long punts forward by goalkeeper Peter Shilton created goalscoring chances. Chivers seized on awful defending to make it 4-0, while Clarke ran through to score a neat fifth. Although England were hopeful of winning beforehand, few would have anticipated such a convincing triumph. In the Daily Mirror, Harry Miller wrote: “England won back their self-respect last night  as Scotland were humiliated by a display that should silence Sir Alf Ramsey’s critics.”

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Scots humiliated

It had been a birthday party to forget for Scotland, their biggest home defeat by the Auld Enemy since 1888. In Glasgow’s The Herald newspaper, a mournful Ian Archer wrote: “This was a defeat that will haunt and hurt us all for it it difficult to avoid those distressing cliches and describe the scoreline as ‘humilitating’, even ‘shameful’. Many a tartan tammy will have been thrown into the gutter of Cathcart Road late last evening.” Among the beaten Scottish players were such respected figures as captain Billy Bremner and a young Kenny Dalglish.

England beat Scotland again three months later, this time 1-0 at Wembley. And yet who would have the last laugh? It was Scotland, as they qualified for the World Cup and England didn’t. If only England could have saved one of their goals against the Scots for that infamous night against the Poles in October 1973.

 

englandmemories View All

Blogging about the history of the England national football team, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.

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