BURNLEY’S 1980s midfielder Tommy Hutchison recalls his role in Scotland’s 1974 World Cup, when the minnows of Zaire caused a real stir, not only with their poor results but also their bizarre approach to defending free-kicks.

IN one way or another, Zaire stamped their mark on sporting history in 1974.

But while the Rumble in the Jungle – held in the capital Kinshasa – remains one of boxing’s greatest moments, the nation’s appearance at that year’s World Cup became famous for all the wrong reasons.

Zaire – now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo – were the first central African side to reach the World Cup and are still regarded as one of the worst teams ever to play at the tournament.

Ilunga Mwepu’s bizarre decision to run out of the wall and hoof the ball downfield, as Brazil prepared to take a free kick, became renowned the world over.

The Leopards inflicted chaos on Group B in 1974, and Scotland were one of the victims.

“We are still the best Scotland team to have played at the World Cup because we won one, drew two and never lost a game,” remembers former Burnley skipper Tommy Hutchison, who was part of the squad that year.

“We went out on goal difference.

“Zaire lost 9-0 to Yugoslavia and there was talk that they were going to pull out because they were playing Brazil next, so God knows what the score was going to be.

“We would have had a play-off against Brazil to decide who went through, which Brazil wouldn’t have fancied because we had already played them and drawn 0-0.

“But Brazil played their game against Zaire, won 3-0 and we went out.

“Unfortunately we ran into Zaire at the wrong time because it was their first game at the World Cup and they were fired up, although they were very raw.

“We won 2-0 but we didn’t even think about goal difference then.

“They were fit and strong, but they were very raw.

“We had a free kick and Peter Lorimer was lining up to take it, but one of their players just flew out of the wall and booted the ball away. Everyone looked around and thought, ‘What are they doing?’.

“That happened again in their game against Brazil. They just didn’t seem to know the rules.”

Scotland have never progressed past the first round in any of their eight appearances at the World Cup, but the frustration about their early exit was only the half of it for Hutchison.

The winger would go on to score for both sides in the 1981 FA Cup final during his time at Manchester City, before a two-year spell at Burnley that was partly tainted by his association with the man who signed him – unpopular boss John Bond.

But 1974 proved to be his only opportunity to play in the World Cup, and his hopes of having a key role in West Germany were dashed as he was restricted to just two substitute appearances by manager Willie Ormond.

“I was in the team but we played a Home Nations game against Wales and I got an injury to my shin,” said Hutchison, now 62.

“I had had similar injuries before and been able to carry on, but I needed three or four stitches and the physio decided I had to come off.

“Some lad called Kenny Dalglish came on instead of me. He never went on and did anything in football! I always say I made him!

“I lost my place but I still thought I might have a chance. Once I realised I wasn’t going to be in the team for the World Cup, though, I said, ‘Forget this, I’m going to tell the manager I’m going home’.

“But he told me, ‘There are 22 players in this squad and there are so many others who would love to be in it’. From that point on I enjoyed the tournament.

“I came on against Yugoslavia in our last group game and set up our goal.

“We drew 1-1 but really we should have won.

“We were out and you saw the faces in the crowd, people crying, and knew how much it meant to them.

“After that we played a European Championship qualifier against Spain at Hampden, we were winning 1-0 but I missed a penalty and we lost 2-1. I hardly played again.

“Eight years later I went to play for Coventry in a pre-season tournament with Hearts and Hibs, and I got booed. They were saying, ‘That’s him who missed the penalty’.

“People in Scotland never forget.”