THESE days, matches with eight, nine, or 10 minutes of stoppage time – or more – are commonplace, but for a certain vintage of Scot, there was once a sole reference point for any game that went beyond the usual two or three minutes of discretionary time: Richard Gough’s wondrous headed goal against Cyprus.

The grainy, sun-soaked images beamed back to living rooms in the late afternoon. Schoolkids rushing through the door just in time to see his flame-red hair appear through the static. The net bulging in what seemed like the 150th minute of a gruelling encounter. Scotland, improbably, having one foot in the World Cup.

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It may have been way back in 1989 that Gough scored that famous header for his country, but along with his goal against England in the 1985 Rous Cup win, it is the one that people still approach him to talk about all these years on.

So, with Scotland taking on Cyprus on the sunshine island and England at Hampden over the next few days, it seems an opportune time to not only do the same, and get his recollections of those iconic moments, but to also get his insight into the challenge that lies ahead for Steve Clarke and his men. First of all, in Larnaca this evening.

“These games are never straightforward,” Gough said.

“Our group for Italia ’90 also had France and Yugoslavia in it, and Yugoslavia had a really good team.

“France drew against Cyprus over there, they drew 1-1, and we knew if we bettered that result then we had a good chance, because Yugoslavia were by far the best team.

“I remember it was really nice weather, the ground was really hard and bouncy, it was difficult conditions. We all had the rubber studs on. We soon figured out why the managed to draw with France! They were actually a good team as well, they had some good players.

“We went 1-0 up, Maurice Johnston scored a great goal. Then they equalised, and not long into the second half they went ahead. We knew that if we lost that game, we wouldn’t have gone to the World Cup.

“So, luckily enough, wee Maurice laid one back to me and my shot took a wicked deflection to take the goalie out and somehow it ended up in the net. At 2-2 we were both pushing for the winner, so it got really end to end.

“We got a free kick in the 97th minute of the game, big Roy Aitken pinged the ball across, and I scored one of the best headers that I ever scored in my career. It was a really good header, the keeper had no chance.

“It was really unusual for that amount of time to be added on in those days, but thankfully it was on that occasion.

“It’s funny, because people always come to me and talk about it, and they always mention that they got away from school early to see that game and they saw that goal, but they forget that I actually scored the equaliser as well!

“I scored a few good headers in my career, but in terms of how important that was for the country, that one was massive. If we had even drawn that game, I don’t think we would have made the World Cup, so it was so, so important.

“We went on to beat France and the rest is history. That was a great achievement given we were up against them and a great Yugoslavia team.”

One man who didn’t appear to be quite as impressed with Gough’s feat though was the man whose job was quite possibly saved by it, with the Scotland manager of the time being understated in his remarks to the sweltering press pack after the match finally ended.

“I always remember Andy Roxburgh after the game telling the media that Roy had put a great ball over and Goughie had just managed to get on the end of it,” he said. “I thought: ‘There was a bit more to it than that Andy!’

“They were a good team, with a lot of players playing for the big Greek clubs back then. We had myself, Dave Narey and Alex McLeish at the back, so it tells you something when they gave us a hard time.

“We were expected to win, but away from home when you go to these places, it is never easy.

“We have played Cyprus on several occasions since that day, and they have never been easy games, so Steve Clarke will know the task that lies ahead.”

Beyond that crucial World Cup qualifier lies a friendly match, a fixture that normally – and particularly off the back of an energy-sapping game in such humid conditions – would be a chance for Clarke to utilise his squad.

But this is no normal friendly, with the Auld Enemy coming to Glasgow to mark the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Scottish FA.

As Gough says: “There is never a friendly against England.”

Certainly, in his days as a player and the annual home internationals, there was a feeling that familiarity with their foe bred a level of contempt, which is why Gough’s winner in the Rous Cup match means so much to him to this day.

“I must have played about six or seven games against them in the time of the home internationals,” he said.

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“At that time, there was a great rivalry. We had the best English players at Ibrox later on of course, but there was also the fact that the best Scottish players played in England, which is how it is now as well.

“So, there was a huge rivalry. I remember in that game, Trevor Francis and Mark Hateley were up front for England, and big Alex had a great game. He had big Hateley in his pocket.

“It was a tight, tight game. I think it was Graeme Souness took a free kick to me, I gave it to Gordon Strachan and then he rolled it out to Jimmy Bett. I just continued my run like I used to do, got in the box at the far post, and Jimmy has floated a ball right on to my head.

“I got above Kenny Sansom, all five foot five of him! There’s a great picture of that, with big Butch standing in the middle marking Stevie Archibald.

“I met it with a perfect header, it just floated beautifully above Peter Shilton, who was the best goalkeeper in Britain at that time.

“It’s another goal that people come up to me and talk about. It’s that and the goal against Cyprus. There aren’t many Scots have scored a winning goal against England, so I’m very proud of that one.”

Unlike Roxburgh, the national team manager at that particular time was a little more forthcoming in his praise for his matchwinner.

“I always remember after the England game, Jock Stein came to me with the Rous Cup, which was full of champagne,” he said.

“He said: ‘You deserve this son’, but I said to him: ‘No thanks Mr Stein, I don’t drink champagne’.

“He looked at me and he said: ‘Drink it son. Never refuse champagne, because champagne means success.’ That’s what he said to me. And you know what? I never stopped drinking it after that! But I suppose that means I had a lot of success.

“He was old school, and that always stuck with me in my head. I was only 22 or 23 at that time, but what a memory to have.”

For the Tartan Army, it is unlikely that the memory of either of Gough’s famous headers will fade any time soon, and it is even less likely they would ever give the scorer himself the opportunity to forget them either.

“It is the fact that people remember these goals that makes them so special,” he said.

“People send me links to them. I watched the highlights of the Cyprus game about three weeks ago after someone sent me it. It’s great to look back on these days. I’ve actually got some good pictures of the Cyprus goal, I got a good jump on it.

“These two goals, I timed them perfectly. It’s like when a golfer hits the perfect golf shot, you just catch it flush on the forehead and the ball has gone exactly where you want it to go. That could be unusual at the time in fairness!

“I look back on those goals as two of the real highlights of my career, and it is just absolutely brilliant to see Scotland back at that level again.”