IN THE World Cup summer of 1978, Scotland took on West Germany and won, and they were dancing on the streets of Springburn that night…

‘Scotland’ on that occasion was represented by Albert United FC, a team of boys from the north of the city who had travelled to Nuremberg as part of a cultural exchange visit with Glasgow’s twin town.

“We wrote to the SFA before our visit, to ask if we could play in an amateur match representing Scotland against what was then West Germany,” says former player Andy Mitchell.

“They said yes, so with their blessing and official badges to sew on our shirts, we played our West German counterparts over two games - and won both.”

(Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

As Scotland’s men’s team prepares to kick off against Germany once more in the 2024 European Championships, Andy and fellow former team-mates met up to mark the 50th anniversary of their beloved club.

Established in 1974, Albert United FC originally comprised pupils from Albert Secondary School (long since closed down) in Springburn. The school already had an assortment of teams, but the new club was a collective of keen young players who had not made into the existing squads.

(Image: Andy Mitchell)

“We were various ages, from about 12 to 17, and mainly we played friendlies,” explains Andy.

“It was started by Gordon Davidson, now a respected artist and musician, who was a former pupil.”

(Image: Andy Mitchell)

The team joined the Youth Club league and through Gordon’s contacts, got involved with the Youth Exchange, a partnership between Glasgow and its twin cities - Turin in Italy and Nuremberg in Germany.

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“We were invited to Poland in 1977, then Nuremberg in 1978, Hof in Bavaria in 1979, Turin in 1980 and Illinois in the US in 1982,” says Andy.

There is a funny story from the Illinois trip, he explains.

“We were well received in Quincy, Illinois, as soccer was still in its infancy and mostly played by girls,” says Andy.

(Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

“We enjoyed living in the American footballers’ homes. We were taken to a theme park for the day, and on one stall was a guy who had a chute and a net, and the idea was to roll footballs down the chute and head them into the net.”

Andy laughs: “Fourteen boys from Scotland cleared his cuddly toy rack in minutes. He was very bemused….”

The players fundraised furiously to make the trips happen, says Andy.

(Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

“Scratch cards, sponsored walks around Springburn Park, dances, donations, you name it, we did it,” he says.

“By the first trip in 1977, other players had joined from surrounding schools, including All Saints Secondary in Balornock. Gordon’s idea was always that there would be no religious or race barriers to play for Albert United.”

(Image: Andy Mitchell)

In 1980, Albert United played in a five-team tournament in Turin during the Torino 80 Festival. “Even though their players were much bigger and stronger we won the cup,” recalls Andy.

“Returning by plane, train and automobile, showing off our trophy, was a highlight.

“We played in Poland during the Cold War era – the facilities were not great but we made good friends. Gordon kept detailed diaries of all the tours - games played, scorers, team lists. It’s great to look at them and remember.”

(Image: Andy Mitchell)

At home, the team expanded into three groups, the Colts, for ages 12 to 15, the Juniors (16 to 18) and the Seniors for those aged over 18.

Training at Albert Secondary, with home matches at Springburn Park, a few well-known faces played for the club, including music journalist Billy Sloan, and football manager and ex-St Mirren player Andy Mullen.

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The team disbanded in 1999.

“It ran out of steam,” says Andy. “The leagues were difficult to join, things were more bureaucratic, and the costs to rent parks and referees were going up.

“But we still meet up each year for a fun golf weekend. We exchange old stories, about goals scored and the teams we came up against.”

(Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

Andy adds, smiling: “We’re in our 60s but I can still talk about great goals we scored 40 years ago.”

For Andy and many of the ex-players, the highlight of playing for Albert United will always be those exciting foreign trips.

“We played against kids from similar backgrounds - we stayed in hostels, hotels and in some cases the home of the opposite number on the field,” he explains.

“We came from the Red Road, from Springburn, Balornock and Barmulloch and yet found ourselves abroad, some for the first time, playing the game we loved.”

He adds: “The club was part of the lives of loads of Glasgow families in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We aimed high and through great leadership from Gordon, let so many guys who didn’t make the ‘best’ teams play in the spirit in which the game was invented.

“It wasn’t about the winning, nor the prizes, it was about aspiring to do better each time you played, and football to these guys was everything.”