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When The Hand Of Joe Was Crushed By The Boot Of Tosh . . . And Revenge Was Taken!

It may not quite fill the void left by the absence of live sport, but the huge number of replayed matches and events on TV at present is at least reminding us all of life before the lockdown. It’s also soothing when nostalgia coincides with justice, as Owen Morgan is keen to witness this weekend.

I know there may not be many alternatives at the moment, but there’s only one place I’m going to be this Saturday afternoon at 1.15pm.

The family have been told the television is booked and the beer is chilling in readiness for an afternoon’s entertainment I am going to thoroughly enjoy.

The latest in BBC Wales’ classic sporting re-runs is Wales’ Home International Championship match against Scotland in 1979 – one of my all time favourite sporting encounters.

Some may be surprised that a seemingly run of the mill match between Wales and Scotland should rate so highly on my list of favourite football memories.


The match the nation is about to enjoy again on Saturday was our first chance to avenge one of sport’s great injustices.

Still not ringing any bells?

Don’t the words World Cup qualifier, Anfield, Joe Jordan and handball mean anything to you?

You can’t have forgotten the events of 12 October 1977, can you? I certainly haven’t!

Even if you’re too young to remember, the tale of the night we were robbed -or Rob Royed – must surely have been handed down from generation to generation by bitter Welsh football fans like me?

“That was over 40 years ago,” I hear you cry. “Let it go, man.”

But I can’t, and it’s 42 years, seven months and one day actually, not that I’m counting, or anything.

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The game has been burned painfully into my memory ever since.

I know I should forgive and forget, but I can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love Scotland – I’ve visited several times and enjoyed the warmest of its welcomes.

Simple Minds and Big Country were amongst my favourite bands of the Eighties, I always rooted for Chris Hoy at the Olympics, Billy Connolly is my favourite comedian, and I cheered as loudly as any Scot when Andy Murray won Wimbledon.

But when Scotland play against Wales at football, it’s a totally different matter. Our best chance of qualifying for a World Cup in 30 years was snatched away from us by the Hand of Joe.

With Wales standing on the brink of qualification for the 1978 tournament in Argentina, their hopes were shattered when Jordan’s fist flicked on an Asa Hartford long throw in the Welsh penalty area with just 12 minutes left.

Despite the hand that punched the ball clearly being at the end of the long dark blue sleeve of Jordan’s shirt, referee Robert Wurtz (not on my Christmas card list) awarded a penalty against Welsh defender Dave Jones, who was wearing the short-sleeved red jersey of Wales.

As the referee blew for the spot-kick, Jordan kissed his clenched fist in triumph.

In fairness to the ref, Jordan was a fearsome sight in his pomp straggly black hair, pale Scottish skin, and a fearsome snarl, made even more threatening by the absence of his front teeth which had been knocked out.

The former Leeds United, Manchester United and AC Milan frontman could have made a blood-chilling vampire in a Hammer Horror film.

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There is a famous photograph of Jordan celebrating a goal, arms aloft and letting out what I can only imagine would have been a bloodcurdling yell, exposing the gap where his front teeth would once have lived, which gave him his Jaws nickname.

Even as a proud Welshman I may have been tempted to award the decision Jordan’s way if I’d been in charge of the whistle.

Anyway, Don Masson stepped up to slot home the penalty and put the Scots on their way to victory.

The much-maligned Scottish goalkeeper Alan Rough even chose that night to pull off a world class save when he brilliantly tipped a John Toshack volley onto the bar.

The result was sealed in the dying minutes by an admittedly superb Kenny Dalglish header as Wales pushed forward desperately trying to save the game.

But it was the decision around Jordan’s handiwork, which sealed Wales’s fate. Although he has always protested his innocence, there is pretty conclusive television and photographic evidence suggesting otherwise.

Had it been a modern match, even VAR would have come down firmly and unequivocally on Wales’ side.

However, Scotland, whose manager Ally McLeod predicted they could win the competition, had their comeuppance at the World Cup finals in Argentina when that unlikely Welsh folk hero Teofilo Cubillas inspired Peru to a 3-1 victory and unfancied Iran held them to a 1-1 draw.

Ally’s Army, as they were dubbed, salvaged some pride with a thrilling 3-2 win over Holland, but it wasn’t enough to save them from an early exit.

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Which brings us to the match which is due to be televised on Saturday.

If you don’t already know what happened, or haven’t already guessed, you may want to stop reading now, but I’m hoping what I’m about to relate will make you want to watch Saturday’s re-run even more!

On 19 May 1979, Wales had the chance to gain some revenge when they met Scotland in the British Home International Championship at Ninian Park.

At this time, many Welsh fans – particularly those who followed Swansea City – were convinced John Toshack could walk on water.

Eight days earlier, the Swans player-manager had summoned himself from the bench at Vetch Field to score the late winning goal against Chesterfield, which clinched the club’s second successive promotion – this time to the old Second Division.

But on that sunny afternoon in Cardiff, Toshack proved he didn’t just walk on water, he could turn it into wine too.

I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoiling it for younger viewers on Saturday.

But the former Cardiff City and Liverpool star scored a vintage hat-trick, which saw Wales comprehensively beat Scotland to the sound of the intoxicated home fans singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” to the Tartan Army.

What’s that they say about revenge being a dish best served cold? Well it tasted pretty good on a warm spring afternoon in Cardiff too. And I’m sure it will still have a satisfying flavour when the game is shown again on Saturday.

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Ever since then, encounters against Scotland have taken on a special significance for me, with each Welsh triumph celebrated with particular relish, helping to heal the wounds of “the Anfield incident”.

And to be fair, our record since then has been pretty good – with one notable exception which we’ll come to later.

Two years after the match we will relive at the weekend, there was more revenge for the Welsh over Scotland, when almost 19,000 fans turned out at Vetch Field to cheer the home side on to a 2-0 victory.

Ian Walsh, who was later to sign for Swansea from Crystal Palace, was the goal scoring hero of the day.

But the sweetest moment of the match involved our old foe Jordan, who was sent off for the only time in his international career.

The Welsh crowd celebrated by accompanying him to the tunnel with the chant of “God was watching at Anfield”!

Although these were memorable and satisfying victories, they could never make up for the injustice and pain of the Anfield defeat.

But in 1985, came the golden opportunity to right the wrongs of the past, when Wales and Scotland met again in a qualification decider for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Wales had already won the away match after a stunning long-range strike by Ian Rush had silenced 60,000 Scots at Hampden Park.

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And this time the home match was to be played on Welsh soil. The 1977 World Cup qualifier was played at Anfield because of crowd trouble at Wales’ European Championship quarter-final against Yugoslavia at Ninian Park in 1976.

Although Anfield was supposed to be a “home” venue for Wales, it had been taken over by Scottish supporters who had mysteriously managed to buy up the majority of the 50,000 tickets.

Now Wales were taking the field in front of a predominantly Welsh crowd, boasting a line-up that included the likes of Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe, Mark Hughes and Ian Rush. What could possibly go wrong this time?

Yes, that’s right, another dodgy handball decision! Wales were leading through a Mark Hughes goal with just 10 minutes left, when an attempted over-head kick was volleyed against Dave Phillips’ arm from point-blank range.

Referee Johannes Keizer, of Holland (funny how these referees names seem to stick in my head), pointed to the spot, and Welsh hearts were broken again by a cruel penalty as the late Davie Cooper scored from the spot to give Scotland the draw they needed.

However, the disappointment of this result was put into stark perspective by the sad death of Scotland’s legendary manager Jock Stein on the touchline moments after the final whistle.

Wales had once again missed out on a trip to the World Cup at the hands of the Scots, although not quite as literally as in 1978 and in genuinely tragic circumstances.

Since then, there have been fewer opportunities for revenge due to the axing of the Home Internationals in 1984.

But that hasn’t meant the end of Welsh celebrations against the Scots.

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Since that fateful night at Ninian Park in 1985, Wales have played the men in blue six times – winning five of those matches.

Among those victories was a Robert Earnshaw-inspired 4-0 friendly win in front of almost 50,000 fans at the Millenium Stadium in 2004.

The home crowd were treated to former Cardiff City cult-hero Earnie emulating his club and country predecessor Toshack’s hat-trick heroics 25 years on from that memorable afternoon in 1979.

Five years later, Toshack was once again the scourge of the Scots when he managed Wales to a 3-0 win at the Cardiff City Stadium, to make it an unanswered seven goals to the Welsh in two matches. You can imagine how happy that made me!

Eventually Wales enjoyed some World Cup joy over Scotland during the qualifying stages of the 2014 tournament.

Although I have to admit to having bittersweet memories of the home match at the Cardiff City Stadium.

The 2-1 win over Scotland is the one and only time I have ever left a football match early.

Having watched the first 75 minutes with my friend constantly complaining about the disappointing Welsh performance and the teeming rain pouring down on our unprotected seats in the second row of the stand, I finally relented and agreed to seek shelter back in the city centre pubs.

As we climbed into a taxi outside the stadium with Wales trailing 1-0, we heard the roar of the crowd as Gareth Bale equalised through a penalty.

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And as we walked back into Kiwis in the Wyndham Arcade in Cardiff city centre, the television screens were showing replays of Bale’s late screamer ripping into the back of the Scottish net to win the match.

Having waited all those years for a World Cup win over Scotland, I was sitting, dripping wet, in the back of a Cardiff cab when it was finally delivered in the most spectacular style imaginable! I won’t be making that mistake again.

Anyway, like buses, another Welsh World Cup win came by soon after when Wales completed the double over Scotland with another 2-1 win at a snowy Hampden Park a few months later.

Unfortunately, those wins weren’t enough for Wales to reach the World Cup in Brazil, but they were enough to make sure Scotland didn’t go either!

Yes, I know, I really do need to put this irrational and obsessive delight in Wales beating Scotland at football behind me. Especially as I have since briefly met Jordan, who seemed to be a thoroughly decent and likeable, if still intimidating, character.

Perhaps, I will after I’ve watched Tosh put them to the sword just one more time on Saturday afternoon.

I wonder if Joe Jordan gets BBC Wales where he lives? I do hope so!


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