Hampden is iconic. Though I never saw a match with crowds of over 100,000 I did witness some amazing Scotland matches in the 1980s, all whilst standing on the terracing in the Rangers end. No seats in those days, just folk packed in behind the goals. Stories tell of drunken folk pishing down the back of your legs but I must have been lucky because that never happened to me. Unless I was the drunk….?
My first Hampden experience however was not a Scotland game, it was the 1981 league cup final. I remember being disappointed the stadium was smaller than I imagined. I’d been at Ibrox in ’78 to watch Stirling Albion and it was huge, a massive bowl. So Hampden seemed small in comparison.
That day in November ’81, Rangers scored twice in the last few minutes to beat Dundee United 2-1. I remember the stoor (dust cloud) drifting down the pitch from the Rangers end (we were in the north enclosure) following both goals. The terracing was blaes and timber you see. The crowd was 53,777.
I was back in ’84 for a World Cup qualifier v Spain, beaten European finalists. We were stuck in traffic at Stepps when the Scotland team bus passed us with a police escort. Crazy. That night in November 74,299 fans crammed into the ancient stadium. Kenny Dalglish scored an amazing goal to clinch a 3-1 win. I lost my mate for five minutes after that goal. The crowd would all surge forward, you had to be careful not to fall down or you would be trampled but folk always helped you back up after. I remember leaving the stadium that night was scary, such was the crush of bodies. You were literally swept along, feet off the ground.
I was back the following May, in ’85 to see Scotland beat England 1-0. A Richard Gough header in the pouring rain was enough. Only 66,439 at this one, maybe segregation was needed for some strange unknown reason? The atmosphere was incredible though, very hostile towards the English fans who, in the ’80s had a terrible reputation.
My final classic match was in March ’89 when we beat France 2-0. France had finished 3rd in the Mexico ’86 World Cup but we won easily. 65,204 fans watched in pouring rain that night as Mo Johnston scored both goals. Good times tho we got totally soaked getting back to the car that night.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, in ’86 I watched Stirling Albion lose 1-0 to Queens Park in a near empty stadium, a surreal experience. The same day Rangers drew 4-4 with Celtic at Ibrox (only 41,000 at that).
I feel lucky to have caught the end of an era, both in footballing terms and old fashioned (decrepit) stadiums. I saw Dalglish, Cooper, Miller, Strachan and Souness all play. Scottish international football has never since reached the levels of ’80s and Hampden was made an all seater stadium in the late ’90s so we’ll never see these crowds again in our national stadium.
I’m going to Hampden this week for a league meeting, train from Central to Mount Florida. Hopefully it’ll be quieter than those crazy nights in the ’80s.