A woman walked in and a brawl started: A night watching the Euros in a Glasgow pub

Glasgow Letter: Scottish city’s boisterous reputation is enthusiastically fulfilled one crazy evening watching the Euros

A mural in Glasgow featuring Scotland players, from left, Che Adams, Andy Robertson and Scott McTominay, was unveiled ahead of the opening Euros match against Germany. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

There was something about the woman as she walked into the pub. She had a Sainsbury’s bag in her hand and a manic look in her eyes. She looked like trouble. And, as it turned out, she was.

The pub – it is best if it remains nameless – was close to Glasgow’s Central Station. Not a soulless chain pub, but a rough-and-ready city centre local. The sort of place where some of the punters had more tattoos than teeth. But it gave free pies to drinkers and that was enough reason to stay.

The locals were mostly friendly enough. But as a location for a journalist canvassing opinions on the UK’s general election, this particular pub was a terrible choice: “Couldnae give a sh*te, mate.”

Fair enough. I mentally clocked off work for the evening, ordered another pint and joined in the fun.

READ MORE

It was Friday night. Scotland were playing Germany in the opening match of the Euros. Despite the fact they were losing four goals to nil at the time, the pub erupted in euphoria when the Scots scored a consolation goal. Massive, brawny men in Scotland jerseys and Saltire bowler hats hugged each other and shouted profane defiance at the Germans through the television. A few of them even hugged me.

Into this cacophony of boisterous, facetious madness walked the woman with the Sainsbury’s bag. She was followed by a couple of equally shifty looking male companions. There was a bar brawl less than a minute later.

The bag lady immediately spotted a man with whom she clearly had a pre-existing problem. Without warning, she yanked him to the ground, the pair of them landing in the middle of the pub in a ball of flying arms and legs.

One of her male companions jumped in. Somehow, the woman managed to slide out from beneath them. More people dived in. I watched the woman as she walked over to her other, more furtive male friend and urged him to get involved too. “Get in there, tae f**k,” I heard her growl. So in he went.

By this stage, it wasn’t completely apparent who was fighting who, such was the level of chaos. There was only one bouncer, a small round man who initially did not look up to much. But looks can be deceiving. He waded in and dragged out one of the fighters, a much larger man than him, in a vice-like headlock and deposited him on the street. Then he stood immobile at the door keeping him, and several others, out.

The brawny football fans, the locals whose pub this was, took off their bowler hats, put down their pints and stepped into the breach to mop up. The last of the invaders was proving difficult to remove, clinging on to the legs of tables, chairs and other punters as he was dragged out.

An elderly man in a kilt caught in no man’s land near the door was accidentally flattened in the melee. I had been chatting with an older couple, Joe and Jean, before it kicked off. We helped the shaken man up off the floor and sat him in a chair as he regained his composure. His name was David. He insisted he was fine and all he wanted was another Bacardi and Coke.

With the troublemakers marooned outside, the atmosphere in the pub shifted from edgy back to gleeful craziness. Scotland had conceded a fifth goal while the fight was going on, but nobody had noticed. The referee had only just blown the final whistle when the pub’s disco lights came on and it shifted into karaoke mode.

David was one of the first on to the stage. He serenaded Jean, a Protestant and a Rangers fan, with a fun version of Unchained Melody. David, also a Protestant and Rangers fan, was in remarkably good voice for a man who had been on his backside minutes earlier.

Joe, Jean’s Catholic Celtic fan husband, found it hilarious.

The pain of Scotland’s German mauling quickly faded into the night along with the echoes of butchered pop hits from the 1980s and 1990s. David was now fully recovered, although I noticed later on that he looked a bit upset. He was very obviously twiddling the ring on his wedding finger. “I lost my wife,” he whispered. “Cancer. She found a wee lump two years ago and that was it.”

He took to the stage again for one last number, his karaoke swansong. I had never heard it before: Love is All, a song apparently made famous by Engelbert Humperdinck.

The crowd roared as David gave his performance absolutely everything. If only the Scottish football team had done the same.