Thousands of excited Scotland supporters descended on central London on Friday, dreaming of the frenzied celebrations which would follow their greatest-ever victory: a win over England at Wembley in a major tournament.
But it wasn’t to be. The Tartan army had to make do with a point after playing out a 0-0 stalemate with Gareth Southgate’s side .
It should have been a miserable evening for the thousands of Scots who didn’t have tickets for Wembley. Drenched by the rain, they gathered outside pubs or huddled around mobile phones to watch the action.
But the dreadful weather could not dampen their spirits. The Tartan army’s bleary-eyed troops wandered off into the night, arm in arm, singing their adopted anthem – the 1977 disco hit Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.
Scotland fan Gordon Ross, 60, came down from Nairn in the Highlands to watch the game in a pub just off Piccadilly Circus. “We’re having a party in London - that’s the main thing. It’s a decent recent for us. But the result isn’t the most important thing. It’s about following Scotland wherever they go and having a good time - win, lose or draw.”
Jack Watson, 22, came down from Inverness to watch in a West End pub. “Good result - they did us proud. It’s just amazing to be here with the Tartan army. I’ve never ever seen Scotland in a tournament before - so I’m here to soak up every single bit of this.”
Fellow Scot Ali MacDougall, 38, was with the Tartan army as they took over Leicester Square. “It’s been wild - total bedlam. I’ve been on lots of Scotland trips abroad and it’s never about the game itself. It’s about the camaraderie.”
England fan Stephen Smith, 49, watched the game inside the fan zone at Trafalgar Square. “Amazing night - I’m happy with that. On we go. I hope the Scots enjoy that and have a good time in London. I like them. I really hope both teams can go through.”
His partner Christina Long, 49-year-old paramedic, said: “We’ve been speaking to lots of Scottish fans - they do seem lovely bunch. I can’t blame them for wanting to come down and have a good time. I know the social distancing on the streets isn’t good, but it’s special occasion.”
The Scottish fans flooded the streets around Soho, Leicester Square and Charing Cross to view the game, mostly through pub windows.
Many had ignored warnings from the London mayor to stay at home unless they had organised somewhere to watch - an estimated 20,000 had travelled to the capital without tickets
But it was a far cry from the running street battles seen in the 1980s, whenever home internationals were held in London or Glasgow. Some England fans even mingled with those in dark blue shirts, draped in flags and kilts.
Scotland fans gather in Leicester Square shortly before kick off
Scotland fan Rab Foulis said he was just pleased his wife allowed him to go to London to soak up the “party atmosphere” for the Euros clash.
“We waited 23 years [since the 1998 World Cup]. We’ve all had double vaccinations … So we’re here and we’re helping London’s economy.”
In between songs, members of the Tartan army complained about the lack of fan zones available. There was no official space for Scottish supporters to gather because of Covid regulations.
The traditional Scottish football meeting spot of Trafalgar Square wasn’t accessible – it was being used as a socially-distanced, ticketed fan zone for 750 of London’s key workers.
Paul Goodwin, co-founder of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, said he was “surprised and disappointed” there wasn’t places for fans to congregate. “We thought there should have been more foresight – London is the capital city, the main hosting city for the tournament.”
Michael McLean, who travelled down from Inverness, said the atmosphere on the streets had been “amazing” – despite the foul weather and lack of places to actually watch it.
“It seems that they underestimated how many would travel down for the game … but it’s definitely good to enjoy an occasion after a year-and-a-half [of the pandemic].”
Scotland fans gathered in Leicester Square
Urging fans to behave themselves while in London, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would “condemn unreservedly” any anti-English behaviour. Clips showing some rowdy Scots singing offensive chants were circulated on social media.
Expecting some anti-social behaviour well into the early hours, Scotland Yard issued a Section 35 Dispersal Order until 3pm on Saturday. It gives police officers the power to exclude misbehaving fans from a particular area for 48 hours.
The Met Police’s football chief had warned Scotland fans not to travel without a ticket. Chief Inspector Joseph Stokoe said: “It’s a shame ... there aren’t enough places for the fans to enjoy themselves, but that’s why the message has always been – if you don’t have a ticket, don’t travel.”
Emma Best, a member of the London Assembly and the Tory group’s spokeswoman on health, said the sight of thousands of Scottish fans gathered so closely together had been “concerning”.
But she also said the Tartan army had created a “really good-natured atmosphere” during their big adventure in the capital over the past few days. “The Boogie song is being played everywhere I’ve been walking.”