STUART McCall celebrated his 32nd birthday surrounded in tartan and orange.

Villa Park was awash with colour as Scotland kicked off their Euro ’96 campaign against a much-fancied Holland.

After two warm-up losses on tour in America, Craig Brown’s team finally got down to the nitty-gritty and proved stubborn opposition.

The contest itself was a dour affair, stop-start and nervous with each country wary of making a mistake.

But McCall’s vivid memory, as he continues to look back on the summer when “football came home”, is the colourful scene that greeted them on that Monday afternoon in Birmingham.

“The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant,” he recalled. “The colour and the noise that was generated was one of the best in my career.

“We walked out at Villa Park and everything was so bright. You had all the Dutch supporters in orange in one half of the ground and our fans in their tartan in the other.

“It was such a special occasion even if the game wasn’t up to much.

“It was a good start for us when you looked at that Dutch side.

“I know they had problems later on and Edgar Davids was sent home after falling out with the manager. But they had gone into the tournament as one of the favourites to win it with the bookies and had a lot of quality.

"I watched it again the other night when it was on ITV and they had some big names in that team at the time."

Eight of Holland’s squad had won the Champions League the previous season with Ajax. But Guus Hiddink’s team, riddled by the infighting that would soon come to the boil with the controversial expulsion of Davids, could not breach the Scottish resistance.

Dennis Bergkamp and Clarence Seedorf missed big chances while keeper Andy Goram, a team-mate of McCall’s at Rangers, was in superb form.

McCall added: “It probably wasn’t a great spectacle, if I’m being honest. It was a typical opening game when everyone’s a bit cautious because you don’t want to get beaten.

“They had more chances, as you’d expect, but we did okay. We fought all right and were happy with the point.

“England had only drawn with Switzerland in their first game so it was still all to play for.”

Scotland had also won the battle in the stands with the vociferous backing from north of the border drowning out their Dutch counterparts.

“Que sera, sera,” was the tartan song of choice for most of the game. “Whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wembley, que sera, sera.”

It was five days away but the battle of Britain beckoned as the Scots prepared to take aim at the auld enemy England once again.

Villa Park had been virtually a home game for Scotland, who were based in nearby Stratford-on-Avon, the heart of Shakespeare country.

“It was a lovely big hotel,” said McCall, “very peaceful for us and the mood was pretty positive.

“We were ready to go down to Wembley but, again, you saw the England side and they were another with a lot of good players.

“But for us, it helped that there were a lot of club connections between the teams. Not a lot was made of it at the time.

“I was up against Gazza in midfield from Rangers, Calderwood was facing Sheringham from Spurs and Hendry and Shearer who were playing for Blackburn. We would all be directly up against each other."

McCall was asked about Paul Gascoigne in an interview to be shown the night before the game. He mentioned how his nine-year-old daughter Carly was a Scotland and a Gazza fan.

“I want the game to be 3-3,” she told her dad, “with you and Gazza both getting a hat-trick!

“The only hat-trick I’d get was from throw-ins or kicking the ball out the park! But that was all I’d said in the report.

"She wanted her dad to do well but was a Rangers supporter as well and loved Gazza."

McCall was never one for any pre-match banter during the warm-up. Darren Jackson, a former Newcastle team-mate of Gascoigne, sought the England man out but McCall was fully focused on getting his bearings.

After a goalless first half, he was heading down the tunnel when he heard the clacking of studs in a hurry behind him.

His first reaction was to expect a bit of trouble – instead it was Gazza running to catch him up.

“He took his shirt off and gave me it and said that’s for your daughter. I’d never asked for that.

“Bearing in mind he’d had a quiet game up to then, that just showed the type of person that he was – so generous and thoughtful.”