A couple of weeks back I did an article on the players that Tommy Docherty gave their first cap too. This time it’s Ally MacLeod’s turn as both had a similar period in charge although Docherty never had a World Cup to contend with but both had tours of South America.In total Tommy was in charge for 12 games and gave caps to 16 players. Ally was in charge for 17 games and gave debuts to 7 players, three of which were goalkeepers and only two reached double figures in caps. I think for me this sets one of the fundamental flaws in Ally’s reign; he never had a player who could be described as one of Ally’s men. Most of the team that played in Argentina had been capped first by Willie Ormond and some even by Docherty.
Ally’s first game in charge was against Wales in the Home Internationals and Don Masson was the least experienced member of the starting line-up with 6 caps. Scotland drew nil nil but followed up with wins against Northern Ireland and England to win the British Championship but no new players were blooded at this point.

Then came the tour of South America and finally with Scotland cruising 3 nil at half time Ally brought on goalkeeper Jim Stewart of Kilmarnock for his 1st cap. The game ended 4-2 to Scotland. Jim’s second and last cap was under Jock Stein, in his first game in charge.

And that was it for the South America tour which went quite well for Scotland but with no new caps, Ally had not found anyone new who could supplement his experienced squad.

Game number 7 in charge, a friendly against East Germany in September 1977 and with Alan Rough having been dropped by Bertie Auld for Partick Thistle the week before, it’s no surprise that another goalkeeper is blooded. This time it’s David Stewart of Leeds who by all accounts had a good game; saving a penalty in a one nil defeat. This would be his only cap.

Arthur Graham of Leeds also came on as a sub during the game as he would do to win his next cap for Scotland in Ally’s last game in charge against Austria. Jock Stein would give Arthur his other nine caps.
Ally, maybe rightly stuck by the tried and tested for the next two games. The World Cup Qualifiers against Czechoslovakia and Wales, both of which we won and saw us head to Argentina that year.
A friendly against Bulgaria in February 1978 was the most adventurous Ally got. Not only did he give a cap to 3 players, he also recalled a few from the footballing hinterland. Another goalkeeper was tried. This time it was Coventry City’s Jim Blyth. Jim’s only other cap came against Wales later that year but his susceptibility to letting in goals from back passes was his undoing. Prior to the Welsh qualifier Danny McGrain had suffered an injury that put him out of not only that game but also the World Cup Finals. Ally had played Sandy Jardine in his place for the Wales game but for most of his remaining tenure Aberdeen’s Stuart Kennedy was drafted in. Although Stuart’s time with Scotland was short, lasting only 8 games, 7 of which were in 1978, he would have to go down as a good find for Ally.

Ian Wallace would be introduced late in the game to score the winner as Scotland won 2-1 but would not play again for Ally and would only make two more appearances for Scotland. Another pub quiz one; Q. which player was transferred for £1.25 million, was his clubs’ top goalscorer for three seasons and was only ever capped with his previous club. A. Ian Wallace. Ally did reinstate three players; Willie Miller won his first cap in three years and would have to wait a year for his next one. Graeme Souness also won his first cap in three years but his first as a Liverpool player. Souness would miss the next game against Ireland and then play versus Wales and come on as a sub against England. It would not be ‘til the third game in the World Cup against the Dutch would he play.

Also coming out of the International wilderness was DJ. Derek Johnstone, possibly the only player who could be described as on form during the forthcoming Home Internationals scoring two goals in dull draws against Northern Ireland and Wales but as we cried out “bring on Johnstone” to our tv’s during that woeful game against Iran in Cordoba, Ally confounded us all by bringing on Joe Harper!
There was time for one more player make his International debut; John Robertson of Nottingham Forest. John would become a vital part of Jock Stein’s team for the 1982 World Cup. Ally played him first against Northern Ireland in a 1-1 draw, followed by a subs appearance against Wales in a game with a similar score line. John’s third cap came against Iran in Cordoba as Willie Johnston had by this time been sent home. Suffice to say, nobody played well against Iran. John’s fourth cap would be under Jock Stein in November 1978.
Ally had one more game in charge after Argentina, a Euro Qualifier against Austria where he finally played Andy Gray in a line-up that included a front three of Andy, Joe Jordan and Kenny Dalglish. Scotland were beaten 3-2 and it was goodnight Ally.
In fairness to Ally, it’s hard to say who else he could have picked; John Wark, Alan Hansen, Davie Cooper and Paul Hegarty were all given debuts over the next year or so but Argentina may have been too soon for them. The loss of Danny McGrain and Gordon McQueen who were both at their peak at that time, was significant too but I do wonder if maybe having a few of his own players in the team may have made the difference.

David Stuart

First posted on Facebook July 1st, 2015