KEVIN Gallacher scored both of the goals and was lauded as a hero by jubilant fans as Scotland defeated Austria 2-0 at Parkhead in a France ’98 qualifier at Parkhead back in 1997.

Yet, it was Paul Lambert who provided the inside information which enabled Craig Brown’s side to overcome Herbert Prohaska’s team and take a significant stride towards reaching their first World Cup finals in eight years.

Gallacher’s mind will wander back to the night of his double when he settles down to watch Steve Clarke’s men launch their bid to reach Qatar 2022 against the same opponents at Hampden tomorrow evening.

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That game, which took place 24 years ago next week, was one of the highlights of the former Dundee United, Coventry City, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United forward’s professional career.

The 53-year-old second strike that night – a right-foot volley that flew into the top left corner of the net in the second-half – was sublime and is still fondly remembered by the Tartan Army.  

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But he felt his first-half opener, which lifted the 43,295-strong crowd inside Celtic Park, was far more important. 

And he recalled how some words of advice from Lambert, who would help Borussia Dortmund beat Juventus in Champions League final the following month, about how his club mate Wolfgang Feiersinger positioned himself enabled Scotland to edge in front in the opening 45 minutes and ultimately pick three huge points. 

“I liked the first goal,” he said. “Austria played with a sweeper and fortunately the sweeper played in the same Dortmund team as Paul Lambert. He gave us inside information on how he played and how deep he would be.

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“Darren (Jackson) and I linked up for the first goal. I played him in and instead of standing watching him race the boy I thought: ‘I need to chase this in case he needs help’. It was a 15 yard pass. But my attacking instincts kicked in and told me to run with him. That was our style. We were good on the counter attack. 

“But he also knew from Paul that the sweeper would be playing us onside at times. The ball broke to the defender after Darren had his shot saved and fortunately he knocked it back to me. It was just a case of putting it into the net.

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“I remember both goals because they were massive moments for Scotland. Austria were a big team in the group. They had big name players who played in the Bundesliga. Big Toni Polster played up front for them. He was an absolute giant of a man and a quality footballer in the world game. But we had to get a result. It was a must win game. Fortunately for us we got it.”

Gallacher hadn’t netted in three-and-a-half years at international level before the Austria match – but he took confidence from his brace and went on and scored another four times in Group 4 to ensure the country booked a place at France ’98 as the best second-placed side in their section.

“I hit form at the right time,” he said. “I was scoring goals at club level very frequently and it just clicked in the international set-up. It was a very, very good second-half to the campaign for myself.

“I was out for two years with a broken leg. The rest of the time I had played either off the bench or on the wing. Everybody always says: ‘You never scored many goals before that!’ Well, you’re not going to score many goals for Scotland when you play out wide or you don’t play.

“I believed I could score goals at club level, but at international level we played a completely different way. I had to learn about how to play up front, how to lead the line on my own with a forward playing just off me. It was very different to what I was used to at Blackburn.

“I was scoring goals for fun at a high level for my club, I just needed a run at centre forward with Scotland. When I got the run I scored goals.”

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Gallacher continued: “But we were building something anyway. Craig was putting together a squad of players who could be like a club rather than international players. We never had players with big, big egos within that team. We had players who would work hard for each other.

“That is what brought us success. We had a never-say-die attitude. If somebody wasn’t playing at the top of their game you would up your game to help them through it. That is how we worked.”

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Like every proud Scot, Gallacher celebrated the national team’s thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Serbia in the Euro 2020 play-off final in Belgrade in November.

He is optimistic the achievement will, just like the Austria win, have a positive impact on their performances in their Qatar 2022 qualifiers and reach their first World Cup since France ‘98.

“I hope the boys can take the feeling they had when they qualified for the Euros into the World Cup campaign,” he said. “You could see what it meant to them. I know how excited I was when big Marshy saved the penalty to get there.

“It is a big competition. I know how hard it will have been for them to fight through that campaign to get there. But they have to keep that form going. In football one minute you are on top of the tree and the next minute you are on the bottom branch. They have to make sure they are on their game.

“It is going to be difficult. We don’t do it the easy way. But there are opportunities there. Now we are getting a blend of players who are quite attack-minded. They forget the defensive side of things. It is just the way they are playing – possession, high press, try and get victories.

“They have done the Euros so why not make it through to the next competition and go back to back. It is a great achievement to do it, but it is going to be very difficult with the games we have got ahead.” 

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