I thought I’d join David Stuart’s ‘Book Club’ and give mention to one of my favourite titles – Andrew Ward’s ‘Scotland The Team’ which was published in 1987 and which gives a season by season narrative account of the National team’s exploits as well as ‘pen pictures’ on individual players and managers. To the back of the book there are team line-ups and stats etc but it is in the narrative that the ‘gems’ lurk.
Apparently just before the world cup qualifier with England at Hampden in April 1950, a smallpox outbreak in Glasgow had caused a scare and so the players stayed out of the city until the day of the match – the Scots at Largs and the English at Troon. And of course we later chose to decline the invite to participate at the finals in Brazil.
The section on the 1954 World Cup Finals still defies belief. The selectors choose only 13 players for the trip to Switzerland which included only one goalkeeper. Furthermore, Rangers players [including regular skipper and then record cap holder George Young] were not included as they were required for the club’s trip to the USA. In Switzerland the players were forced to train in their club jerseys and were promptly nick-named the Liquorice Allsorts.
Yet another embarrassing moment occurred in our opening match when the Austrian captain presented Preston’s Willie Cunningham with a pennant and our skipper had nothing to hand back.

In our second match we were humiliated 7-0 by defending champions Uruquay which rounded off a poor season for British football. With England having been hammered twice by Hungary there was talk of a Great Britain team being entered for the next world cup! Holy narrow escape, Batman….
Team GB did not come about although ironically all four ‘British’ sides reached the 1958 World Cup Finals. At Sweden ’58 however Scotland were the only team without a manager- temporary boss Matt Busby was still recovering from the Munich air disaster and trainer Dawson Walker was left in charge of the players.

I usually enjoy indulging in a spot of nostalgia but with Scotland it can be painful stuff. I know my mind is starting to wander a bit here but when you consider that three of the Doctor Whos were Scottish, you’d think that one of them would do the decent thing and go back in time to ‘correct’ these basic errors.


Robert Marshall

First posted on Facebook on May 25th, 2015