Scotland’s dismal World Cup performance has always been something of a national joke.
It’s been 18 long years since the squad managed to qualify for the World Cup – and even then, we’ve never managed to make it out of the group stage.
But now a South Queensferry man hopes to help turn that all around when he jets off to the Italian city of San Benedetto del Tronto to take on football’s premier talent – in the 2015 Subbuteo World Cup.
In what could be table football’s answer to Hibs’ legendary Famous Five forward line, Mike Burns will be joined by Malcolm Lees, Dave Skinner, Dave Allen and Dave Baxter to travel to the Adriatic coast next Thursday in an attempt to triumph over the world’s best miniature soccer players.
The dramatic bid will be the first time Scotland has been represented in the annual tournament since the 2012 World Cup in Manchester – and only the third time since 2002.
And with teams coming from as far afield as Brazil, Japan and America, the friends admit they face “a challenge” – but insist they are determined to do one better than the real Scotland team by at least clearing the group stage.
Level-headed Mike said he was keeping his hopes “realistic” in the run-up to the event.
The competition will be the veteran’s second stab at glory after he was part of the Scottish side thwarted by England in the 2002 group stages – a result he’s determined not to repeat.
The 33-year-old said: “Being realistic, I don’t think we can win overall, but I think we have a good chance of doing better than we ever have before. It’s the strongest team we have sent to one of these events since I’ve been playing.
“It’s the biggest Subbuteo event in the world. There will probably be about 300 players that go along – which is huge for Subbuteo. It’s not a big sport, as you might imagine.
“But it will be like a proper sporting event in an indoor arena that can hold up to 50 tables. It’s not just a handful of guys going down somebody’s living room or to a sports hall.”
The Scotland squad’s five members boast a deep well of talent between them, with Dave Baxter and Malcolm Lees both nine times Scottish Subbuteo champions and Dave Baxter a previous world number one. Mike, meanwhile, is currently signed to top Italian Subbuteo club ACS Perugia.