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Euro 96 was my favourite tournament with Scotland – but I didn’t play a minute

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IF you ask a footballer to name some of their favourite moments from their career, it will usually revolve around a goal, a cup final or league title win, or perhaps a special game in particular that they were a part of.

At the very least, you’d expect them to have been on the pitch for said moment – but that’s not the case for one former Scotland and Celtic star.

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The Scotland starting XI that took on Switzerland at Euro 96Credit: SNS
It was a summer to remember for many fans

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It was a summer to remember for many fansCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
Punters soaked up the atmosphere in the British sun

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Punters soaked up the atmosphere in the British sunCredit: PA:Press Association
Even if this moment contributed to Scotland's elimination at the group stage

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Even if this moment contributed to Scotland’s elimination at the group stageCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty

Euro 96 is among the most fondly-remembered European Championships of all time, thanks to the atmosphere in the grounds, the excitement around the competition and of course, that song.

With Football Coming Home, the United Kingdom as a whole was abuzz and the players fed off it.

Even if they didn’t get a chance to kick a ball.

Darren Jackson’s form with Hibernian had made him a regular in the mid to late nineties for Scotland under Craig Brown.

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He was selected for both the Euros south of the border in 1996 and the World Cup in France two years later.

And while he featured twice at France 98, he insists he actually ranks the summer of Euro 96 HIGHER.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball programme: “Fantastic memories. Euro 96 was great.

“It sounds really strange but I enjoyed Euro 96 more than I enjoyed France 98, and I never played at Euro 96.

“It was because it was in England, and all the build up. Everything revolving around Scotland and England.

“The buzz was incredible.

Grado does hilarious impression of Ally McCoist and channels Scotland cult song

“Whereas, in France, you didn’t really have the television on but when you did it was all in French so you wouldn’t understand it.

“France ’98 was phenomenal though.”

With much debate about who will lead the line for Scotland at this summer’s Euros in Germany, Jackson knows all too well about competition for places up top with the national side.

But whereas now it’s about three men competing for one spot, back then Brown had SIX players to try and fit into his starting XI.

For Euro 96, Jackson had to compete with Rangers legend Ally McCoist and his in-form Ibrox team mate Gordon Durie for a starting berth, plus Chelsea forward John Spencer, Blackburn‘s Kevin Gallacher and Aberdeen star Scott Booth, who had scored four goals in qualifying.

Brown’s dilemma was therefore rather different to current boss Steve Clarke, and it meant that Jackson didn’t play a single minute in any of Scotland’s three games.

Darren Jackson (right) celebrates with John Collins against Brazil at France 98

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Darren Jackson (right) celebrates with John Collins against Brazil at France 98Credit: Times Newspapers Ltd

Jackson revealed that he nearly did get the nod to come on as a sub on two occasions.

“I never kicked a ball. I was on the bench,” he said.

“There was a couple of times, for example the Holland game Craig (Brown) looked at me and I was possibly going on and the England game when John Spencer started and Ally McCoist went on instead of me.

“It was a magnificent tournament and we were obviously just a goal away from going through. We were on the bench at Villa Park and John Spencer was on the phone and we heard that Patrick Kluivert had scored and we were out.

“Just one goal away from qualifying.”

Arguably the most memorable moment of the Euros that year (from a Scotland perspective certainly and from a wider perspective, maybe second to Gareth Southgate‘s penalty miss) was Paul Gascoigne‘s wonder goal during the England-Scotland game at Wembley.

But just before that strike, Gary McCallister had the chance to make it 1-1 from the penalty spot.

Alas, the Scotland skipper missed (amidst controversy over the ball moving just before he hit it) and it proved pivotal.

Jackson said he has never seen a player so upset after a game of football than the Leeds midfielder that evening.

He said: “I watched as Gary went up and that ball definitely moved. I’m not saying he would have scored.

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“Gary, that night, I’ve never seen anyone so low.

“He tried to place it and tried to blast it.”

Gary McCallister after his penalty miss against England

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Gary McCallister after his penalty miss against EnglandCredit: PA:Press Association

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