Between 1892 and 1976 representative sides from the Scottish League and the English League [usually referred to as the Football League] met on no fewer than 72 occasions with our noisy neighbours leading the series 40-18 with 14 draws.
Latterly the theory was that such fixtures allowed national team managers to try out league players in international conditions although in the inaugural match there were four Scots in the English League side! The fixture was also seen as an opportunity to reward consistently good players with an international honour.
In March 1976 Willie Ormond’s starting line-up included four Rangers players [Alex McDonald, Bobby McKean,Colin Jackson and Tom Forsyth] whilst Hibs provided Des Bremner and Arthur Duncan. In goal was Jim Stewart of Kilmarnock whilst Joe Wark [Motherwell], Andy Rolland [Dundee United], Willie Miller [Aberdeen] and Joe Craig [Partick Thistle] also appeared.Unfortunately, the English League which included Peter Shilton [then billed as the most expensive ‘Keeper in British football following his £325,000 transfer from Leicester to Stoke] won the match 1-0 thanks to a goal from Leeds United defender Trevor Cherry. I was amongst the ‘crowd’ of 8874 at Hampden Park that saw the curtain come down on this fixture but I would welcome a resurrection, if you will pardon the expression.
As well as the Scotland-England rivalry other semi-regular league internationals were arranged against the Irish League [Belfast-based] and the League of Ireland [Dublin-based ].In the early 1960s the Italian League joined in the fun and played representative games against both the Football League and the Scottish League. Denis Law played for the Serie A XI against the Scottish League in 1961. Unfortunately however, these League internationals went out of favour before our Welsh friends could properly get in on the act.
Over years the Scots played their home games at various stadiums across Glasgow and at Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh. English League venues seemed to include everywhere except Wembley. A more egalitarian, decentralised approach appeared to prevail down south.
Indeed, the Scots’ last success in that fixture was at St. James’ Park, Newcastle in March 1966. Alf Ramsey’s world cup hopefuls [which included Nobby Stiles, Alan Ball and Jack & Bobby Charlton] took the lead with a first-half goal from Jimmy Greaves. In the second half however a goal from Dundee’s Andy Penman and two from Joe McBride of Celtic gave the Scottish League a 3-1 victory.
Celtic’s Bobby Evans made the most appearances for the Scottish League – 25 in total between 1948 and 1960 whilst Willie Bauld of Hearts is the top scorer with 15 goals in 13 appearances between 1949 and 1958. Jock Stein’s only international recognition as a player came about in 1954 when he played against the English League at Stamford Bridge.
Well before the arrival of the new millennium apathy, low attendances and overcrowded fixture lists meant that to all intents and purposes it was the end for Inter-League ‘Nationals. Ironically though in these days of multi-national/multi-cultural leagues, fixtures involving Premiership/Premier League selects could be particularly attractive. The question is what incentive would these highly paid divas and divers require to take part? Even more money would mean nothing to most of them so why not go down the charity fund-raising route instead and appeal to their egos by praising them [and their managers] for supporting good causes.
I know I’m probably urinating into a south-westerly but sometimes you’ve got to get these things off your chest.
First posted on Facebook August 11th, 2015