The etymology of the word "jacksie" has recently become a source of dispute among Scotland's amateur linguistic community. Long held to have its origins in obscure cockney rhyming slang, recent tales have emerged placing it much closer to home. For it seems that the word may have been commonly used in the west of Scotland decades before the great 18th-century Clyde vowel shift that divides north-east Glasgow from the south-west. This is the oral faultline that sees the word "sacks" become "secks" when it reaches Newton Mearns.
I have my own theory, though. I think "jacksie" was beginning to fade from general use until the great Celtic and Scotland full back Tommy Gemmell, in front of a global television audience, booted Helmut Haller up the arse during a World Cup qualifier between the countries in 1969. Gemmell, incensed at a typically sly ankle tap by Haller, chased the terrified German for fully 20 yards before indeed "booting him up the jacksie". Anyone who has witnessed footage of the incident will agree that no other word for the human posterior would have done justice to it.
Haller was an integral part of the great West Germany team that was unjustly beaten by England in 1966 and reached the semi-finals four years later in Mexico. The match in which he encountered Gemmell's size 10 was a winner-takes-all game played in Hamburg. The Germans eventually triumphed 3-2 in a high-octane thriller that swung this way then that before the World Cup runners-up scored nine minutes from the end against the depleted Scots.
Who knows, though, what might have transpired if Gemmell had not been sent off. One of Scotland's two goals that night was scored by Gemmell's Celtic club-mate Jimmy Johnstone. These two, along with the Celtic midfielder Bobby Murdoch, were regarded as the only three world-class players operating in Scotland during that period.
Two years previously, they had helped Celtic to become the first British club to lift the European Cup. Yet only very rarely did these three ever play in the same Scotland team. This was due to a selection policy by successive Scotland bosses that regularly put journeyman professionals ahead of three of the best players the nation had ever produced. Consequently, Scotland never qualified for the latter stages of any tournament in this period, despite having the most richly endowed squad ever available to a Scotland manager. One can only guess at the reasons why Celtic's Lisbon Lions earned so few caps between them.
At least, in 1969, Scotland's World Cup dream evaporated against the best country in Europe. They had been in contention for a place in Mexico until the final game. Forty three years later, almost to the day, the current Scotland team's hopes of qualifying for Brazil in 2014 ended at the hands of a Welsh side that might not even be the best team in Wales. The 2-1 defeat in Cardiff on Friday night was an abject performance from a team who were outplayed by the Welsh for almost the entire 90 minutes.
Craig Levein, our saturnine manager, seems destined to be removed from his post very soon after winning just three out of his 11 competitive games. The former Dundee United manager deserves no sympathy for he has had a stronger squad available to him than any of his recent predecessors. Eight of the players who featured in Cardiff have played regularly in the English Premier League, the most competitive league in the world. The Scotland displays under Levein seem always to reflect the manager's outlook: permanently gloomy with outbreaks of rain. If a football match had featured in the film Blade Runner Craig Levein's Scotland would have got the gig.
In truth, he never recovered after putting a team on the park against an average Czech Republic side that contained no forwards whatsoever. That was an act of folly. Yet he refused to put on a lifejacket that appeared in the form of Steven Fletcher, the only Scottish footballer of the modern generation who can score goals in the Premier League. Levein, though, banished him until it was too late.
Miscreants from other countries can get caught racially abusing colleagues; shagging their team-mate's wife; shagging their brother's wife and calling their own governing body twats and still they will be selected for their country. Steven Fletcher sent a text to one of Levein's assistants stating that he didn't want to be selected for the next game. It was not a sin that cried out to the Lord for vengeance. Rather, it required a swift boot up the, well, jacksie followed by a robust verbal rebuke and then an arm round the shoulder. Everyone knows the psyche of a professional footballer is as fragile as a prepubescent schoolgirl's and that they must be treated as such until they retire and can then be readmitted into normal society.
But such mismanagement is a motif that constantly occurs in the depressing narrative of Scotland's international football team. In the 60s and 70s, the selectors largely overlooked Celtic's mighty Lions and in the 90s we denied ourselves the services of Duncan Ferguson, the last Scot who knew how to score goals regularly in England's top division. For the last 40 years, with one or two exceptions, we have chosen second- and third-tier managers to manage Scotland while paying them a salary of an English Championship manager. And that's why we get an international team that resembles Huddersfield Town.
By the time Scotland's next chance of competing at a World Cup occurs 20 years will have elapsed since our last appearance. This matters because it casts a shadow over our nation. Yes of course I am as jocund and elated as the next chiel at the success of Andy Murray and Chris Hoy and all those nice rowers and sailors. Being good at football, though, matters so much more than these boutique pastimes of the bourgeoisie.