The Laugardalsvoller Stadium in Reykjavik was a somewhat appropriate setting for Jim Bett's solitary strike in Scotland colours but the cultured midfielder paid a heavy price for the winning goal against Iceland 17 years ago.

His back-post strike from Gordon Strachan's cross has become a national fixation in recent weeks, as an embattled Berti Vogts prepares to take his troops back to the scene of past success despite the masses holding out little hope of history repeating itself, but its importance to the national team's qualification for the World Cup in 1986 was counterbalanced by divided loyalties in the Bett household.

Audur, the Icelandic wife whom he met during his first visit to the country as a teenager trying to make his mark, was in attendance with the rest of her family - ''about 40 of them'' - in the home end cheer-ing on their own country but, while forgiveness was forthcoming, his late show was not forgotten in a hurry in his adopted homeland.

''At the time we were building a house over there and I agreed a special deal with the builder for the concrete,'' he recalled, having just returned from a second spell in Belgium with Lokeren to sign for Aber-deen. ''Afterwards, he came up to me and said 'now you pay double'.''

The builder's comments were, of course, made in jest but so profound was the effect of the country on his journey of professional self-discovery, Bett not only found himself an Icelandic wife with whom he has raised three children - Baldur, Brynjar, and the more traditionally tartan Calum - but retains a flat in Iceland and a love of its tranquil splendour.

Until the recent spate of media interest in his quirky tale from yesteryear, the 42-year-old has enjoyed relative anony-mity in Aberdeen, where he has made a successful transition from celebrated footballer to respected property developer and sometimes journalist cover-ing the Dons for an internet site.

It takes a headstrong youngster to leave Airdrie FC at 17 in the belief that sporting aspirations would be accelerated in the footballing backwater of Iceland.

Hamilton boys are made of stern stuff, though, and there was not a moment's hesitation despite the understandable concerns of his friends and family. His valour in Valur was promptly vindicated, when he was scouted by the Belgian side, Lokeren, after only two first-team games for the Icelanders. Still, he made a last- ing impression during his 10 months there, not least with Audur.

''I've always been single-minded and I just felt there was nothing for me in Airdrie,'' he said. ''I was only signed part-time and that was no good for me, so I decided to take a chance. At that age you don't worry about the consequences and I just went for it.''

In a big way, as it transpired. He was instrumental in helping to hoist the club up the Belgian first division and into the UEFA Cup, although he had moved on again by the time Europe came around. He did, however, strike up a relationship with the club officials that would endure and eventually lead to a brief return.

Rangers was the next des-tination, his form on foreign fields and by now with Scotland, courting the attention of John Greig but, although he enjoyed three years there, during which time the club won the Scottish Cup, it was a case of right club at the wrong time.

''They were never challenging for the league and were in the middle of a transitional period. I just wanted a change again. Lokeren's general manager always kept in touch and I fancied going back over there, so I did. There was no second-time syndrome and I thoroughly enjoyed playing there again.''

By the late eighties, the pigeon-chested playmaker had earned plenty plaudits for his passing precision and panache, if never for his pace and, when it came to settling down with the wife and family, the north- east of Scotland was the ideal setting.

Nine years were spent at Pittodrie, during which time he was awarded the Players' Player of the Year award and won two Scottish Cups and two League Cups, but itchy feet took him wandering back to Reykjavik, whom he helped to their first league title in 26 years.

These days, Scottish players' adventures usually start and end with the Nationwide League - save for a few exceptions in England's top division - and Bett cites the lack of cultural and professional curiosity as a major downfall.

''I loved going abroad to try new languages and new styles of football. When I returned to Scotland I felt a better, more rounded player for those experi-ences,'' he said. ''Back then, Scottish players formed the backbone of the biggest teams in England but that just does not happen now.

''It's a vicious circle, if you don't try something different you don't improve, but we just don't seem to be producing the same talent any more.''

Though proficient in Flemish and Icelandic, he is fluent in common sense and, like many supporters, he has the same reservations about Scotland's return to Reykjavik 17 years on. He was a team-mate of Arnor Gudjohnsen at Lokeren, whose son Eidur, was Ronaldo's replacement at PSV Eindhoven until Bolton, then Chelsea, paid for his services. With Scotland's defence in disarray, there is nothing Vogts will fear more than a forward on fire.

''He's a really good player and the man Scotland have to watch out for, but they have improved as a team because their players are now dotted all over Europe. We have regressed because we do not benefit from that experience any more.''

There is another side of the argument. Looking back to that fateful night in May of 1985, when Graeme Souness consigned the then Sheffield Wednesday starlet Siggi Jonsson to a journeyman career with an eye-watering tackle and Jim Leighton saved a penalty, it is apparent that underdogs cannot be under-estimated.

This time around, though, Scotland will run out on to the Laugardalsvoller turf with little expectation of a win and that, suggests Bett, may be their big-gest advantage.

''I remember Iceland had no pressure on them and just looked forward to seeing all the Scottish stars at that time. Now, Atli Edvaldsson finds himself under pressure by the FA to qualify for the championship and we go over there not expecting anything.''

Seventeen years on, Bett will watch from the comfort of his Aberdeen home, his wife camped in the other corner. This time around he is unable to influence the outcome but that is still no guarantee of domestic bliss come 4.45 this evening.