The 10 greatest Scottish football moments of 2018
10. Ten-men come from 3-1 down in last three minutes - to win
We begin with the greatest comeback you’re never likely to hear about on Sky Sports. When Joao Victoria scored in the 84th minute to make it Airdrieonians 3 - 1 Raith Rovers it looked certain to be all over for the visitors. Not only were they chasing a two-goal deficit, they were away from home and down to ten men after Iain Davidson’s red card earlier in the half. What followed was the most bonkers seven minutes of football to occur all year - just slightly edging out the bonkers 13 minutes that created Livingston 5 - 0 Hearts.
Liam Buchanan pulled back what looked to be a mere consolation on 87 minutes, which was then followed up by a Kevin Nisbet equaliser as the match lapsed into injury-time. Airdrie, with their heads spinning at this point, could do nothing to stop Buchanan striking again in the fourth minute of stoppage time to earn all three points.
Manager Barry Smith followed this with a 4-0 win at Forfar the following week as the two results combined to remove the dark cloud looming over the embattled manager. He then promptly resigned.
9. Montrose escape from bottom tier for first time in 22 years
Montrose were bottom of the Ladbrokes League Two table for a short period in the 2016/17 campaign, which prompted the sacking of previous boss Paul Hegarty. It wasn’t an unfamiliar position for the Gable Endies. They had narrowly survived relegation out of the SPFL in 2015 - mounting a comeback against Brora Rangers in the play-off final second-leg - and hadn’t even made the promotion play-offs since 2008.
Not only was new manager Stewart Petrie able to steady the ship, not only was he able to end their barren play-off run by getting them fourth place that season, he did what nobody else had achieved in two decades by getting the club promoted. In a closely run title race with big-spending Peterhead, the Mo’ pipped their rivals by a single point. And, despite a rough start, they’ve now acclimatised to League One and sit in the relative comfort of mid-table.
8. Andrew Robertson becomes first Scot in 21 years to play in European Cup final
The moment that really stood out for Robertson in a red shirt last season came in a league match against Manchester City in January. The left-back showed off his stamina and unwavering determination as he pressed like no player had pressed before, haring after each defender like a greyhound on steroids attempting to win back the football. It was one of those perfect moments that can be clipped and widely shared on social media and it made the 24-year-old - who played for Queen’s Park five years ago, in case somebody hadn’t mentioned it - a real hero in the eyes of the Liverpool fans.
Unfortunately for him the final didn’t go his or Liverpool’s way in the Champions League final as Real Madrid defeated them 3-1 in Kiev, but there are sure to be other opportunities to come.
7. Scottish football regains some of its European mojo
Since 2011, the last season Rangers reached the Champions League and subsequently the knockout stages of the Europa League, it’s almost exclusively Celtic who have been flying the flag as far as Scottish teams in Europe are concerned. Aberdeen had a couple of decent results - beating Groningen and Rijeka - and a few brave attempts at reaching the play-off round, but this has often been overshadowed by other Scottish clubs failing to do anything on note. Well, finally, this was the year without embarrassment. Rangers made the Europa League group stages from the first round of qualifying, Aberdeen took an English Premier League side to extra-time after two 1-1 draws despite the obscene financial gulf, and Hibs were able to win two rounds, going unbeaten in five, before eventually being overpowered by Molde. Even Celtic, who suffered a blip by failing to reach the Champions League for the third successive year, can still call this a productive campaign through their qualification for the latter stages of the Europa League.
6. Lawrence Shankland’s incredible Friday night performance
No single player has caused such destruction to an opponent as Shankland inflicted upon Dundee United in a top-of-the-table, Friday night clash between Robbie Neilson’s tangerine revival and under-pressure league leaders Ayr United. With the hosts unbeaten since the former Hearts boss’ arrival, and Ayr having slipped up with a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Morton in their previous league match, it was primed for a United victory and a statement of intent for the rest of the campaign. Instead, Shankland completely ripped them apart. There was nothing the home defence could do to keep track of the striker, who netted four goals and could have had a few others as Ayr ran riot in a 5-0 victory. It was the best individual performance in the SPFL this year, hands down.
5. James Forrest nets hat-trick in Nations League clincher
From the best individual domestic performance to the best at the international level. Forrest - who could have been selected in the previous entry ahead of Shankland for his four-goal showing against St Johnstone earlier this season - netted three times as Scotland were able to defeat Israel in the final Uefa Nations League match, which secured our status as group winners, thus earning the fail-safe of a play-off place should the 2020 European Championships qualifying campaign go as horrifically badly as just about every other qualifying campaign from the past two decades. Without his mastery in composed finishing things could have been very different for the national team. There’s a chance Alex McLeish would no longer be in charge - so time will tell if Forrest’s hat-trick was actually a good thing.
4. Livingston secure back-to-back promotions
It’s a rise which gives hope to any full-time team in Scotland. There’s been no real secret, no master grand plan that all clubs will soon copy. They just managed to produce a perfect blend of underrated players from the lower leagues; guys who had the talent to be top flight stars but didn’t have the right situation or direction. From League One to the top six of the Ladbrokes Premiership, the squad has mainly been made up of players side while they were in the third tier. It’s a remarkable story, and even more so that they’ve been able to achieve it despite going through three managers.
3. Celtic complete unprecedented double-treble
Should this be higher on the list? Probably. It’s an achievement which has never occurred in Scottish football before and may never happen again as long as society is strong enough to support organised football - which by the current state of the world probably has about another 18 months left. So why is it only in third? Well, despite being unprecedented, it still felt a little predictable. Celtic were never going to lose the title and, with them so dominant in big games under Brendan Rodgers, it didn’t look particularly likely that they’d suffer a shock in one of the cups either. The biggest surprise was that they only finished 10 points clear in the end and conceded a couple of decent chances to Motherwell in one of the cup finals. It’s a compliment to the Parkhead side for the way in which they’ve been able to dominate. Yes, the financial gulf plays a part, but that particular chasm has been in Scottish football for years and no champion has looked as commanding as this one.
2. Hibs 5 - 5 Rangers
Hibs 3-0 Rangers; Hibs 3-5 Rangers; Hibs 5-5 Rangers; Neil Lennon’s aeroplane celebration: you could get together a group of script writers, lock them in a room for hours and they’d still struggle to come up with an ending to the Scottish football season as dramatic at this. Put simply, it was the single best game since May 2010 when Hibs (who else?) went to Motherwell and threw away a four-goal lead to draw 6-6.
1. Scotland women’s team qualify for the 2019 World Cup
This writer is not going to pretend to know much about women’s football, either in this country or abroad. Prior to qualification I had never watched a game, discussed it on a podcast or even written an article about it - with perhaps the exception of nuts-and-bolts news stories. But that is what’s so important about this achievement and why it should be in at No.1. The success made me want to know more. It’s why I tuned in to see Shelley Kerr’s side narrowly lose to the United States in a friendly at St Mirren Park recently. It was the most I’ve been interested in an exhibition game of any description in about a decade and was off my seat when Erin Cuthbert was looked set to equalise in the dying seconds before having the ball nipped off her toes by American enforcer Julie Ertz. Qualification and their presence at the World Cup has made the previously ignorant, including myself, sit up and take notice and should ensure a legacy that’ll be for the betterment of women’s football in Scottish society for decades to come.