He lost money on a holiday he’d booked but former Aberdeen captain Darren Young says getting the chance to go the World Cup with Scotland was priceless.
The national side are preparing to make their return to a major tournament at the Euros next week after 23 years away.
The 1998 World Cup in France was the last time the Dark Blues reached a major finals and former Dons skipper Young was part of it.
He wasn’t named in Craig Brown’s squad, but the then-19-year-old was asked to be part of the travelling party as a hamper boy.
It used to be tradition that Scotland would take a handful of young players to the tournament to assist with kit duties.
‘I thought it was a wind-up’
Young was chosen along with Mark Burchill, Kieran McAnespie and Paul Gallacher.
Initially, the midfielder, who played for Aberdeen between 1996 and 2003, thought it was a wind-up.
And after discovering the offer was a serious one, it meant opting out of his planned summer holiday.
The 42-year-old said: “I remember I had booked a holiday to Ayia Napa with (brother) Derek and some of the other boys from Aberdeen.
“I was booked up to go. But then I got the call to go (to France). Alex Miller was part of the coaching staff, but I can’t remember who it was that called me.
“I was told it was about the World Cup and going as a hamper boy and initially I thought it was a wind-up.
“Eventually they were like: ‘no, we’re being serious’ and I thought: ‘what an opportunity this is.’
“It was the same with the Toulon Tournament (1997) when I was selected for that.
“I had another holiday booked and wasn’t expected to be picked. Although it was an Under-21 tournament, Scotland were going with a young side and took an U19 team, so I went to that.
“It was an easy decision to make, though. I wasn’t bothered about the money I’d spent.
“It was probably my most expensive holiday and I don’t think I ended up getting it back.
“But for me the price of that was nothing compared to going to a World Cup with Scotland; that was priceless.
“You couldn’t turn that down.
“It was an easy swap – World Cup with Scotland or Ayia Napa with the boys – once I knew they were serious, it was an easy decision to make.”
The Miller connection
To this day Young isn’t entirely sure why he was selected as a hamper boy for the World Cup.
The then-Aberdeen manager, Alex Miller, was Brown’s assistant manager with the national side and he believes that may have helped.
Young, who won caps for Scotland U17s, U19s and U21s, added: “I never really found out why I was chosen. I think the Alex Miller connection helped.
“But I’d been playing well for Aberdeen that season and had been part of the Under-21s squad.
“The four of us had all been with the 21s and they were maybe picking guys they felt had a chance to kick on and potentially play for Scotland.
“Maybe they wanted us to experience a tournament. It probably did help that Alex Miller was there, because he’d seen me day in, day out.
“But it was a great experience and something you could never really recreate.”
An experience to savour
Although they were primarily there to help with kit duties, Young says the hamper boys were made to feel like members of the squad.
They also got the opportunity to take part in training and that remains an experience Young treasures.
The current East Fife manager said: “We were treated like we were one of the squad, you felt like you were part of the squad.
“When we got to France, you got to take part in training as well.
“You’d get up a bit earlier, and if anybody needed anything kit-wise you’d deal with that; you’d help set up training and help with anything we were required to.
“Seeing the training sessions and getting to take part was great.
“We were all young boys at 18 or 19 and it was brilliant to see how they prepared for a World Cup.
“At the end of the sessions, if players were wanting to do finishing work, we would be laying the ball off or crossing for them.
“Whatever they were wanting to do, we were there to assist.
“Most days we would help the players and take part in the sessions and that’s why you felt part of the squad, because you were training with these guys.”
Teddy Scott’s words of wisdom
After the tournament, Young returned to Aberdeen for pre-season with a warning from legendary former Dons coach and kitman Teddy Scott.
He said: “I loved Teddy and got on really well with him.
“Coming back to pre-season, I remember the first day, he said: ‘Don’t think you’re coming back here to take my job off me. Just you stick to playing’.
“Teddy was brilliant and we had a joke and a laugh about it as well.”