I had this idea of doing something on the First ever Under-23 match and the last, you know putting together facts and figures etc., who made it through to full International scene, who did diddly squat but then I discovered in Scotland’s first Under-23 International that took place on 8th February, 1955, we got pumped 6 nil by England – so bugger that.

Actually to tell the story of their last Under-23 game you have to tell the story of their last European Under-23 Championship in 1975-76. Scotland had drawn Romania and Denmark in their group and despatched of them very quickly. Starting with two away games, first a 2-1 win in Romania with the two Willie’s scoring. Young of Aberdeen and Pettigrew of Motherwell followed by a 1-0 win in Denmark with Hibs Des Bremner scoring.

The home games were won with consummate ease, something that is rarely said of any Scotland team, with a 4-1 win against Denmark that included an Andy Gray, then of Aston Villa hat-trick and a fourth goal by Hearts’ Rab Prentice in his only appearance for the Under-23 team.

This was followed by a 4-0 trouncing of Romania with two goals by Willie Pettigrew, another for Des Bremner and a penalty converted by team Captain Tommy Craig of Newcastle.

Scotland then drew Holland in their quarter-final tie with the first leg away in Breda. Tommy Craig would miss this game due to his club not releasing him but also missing was Andy Gray due to injury (wasn’t he always?). It would also seem that Willie Pettigrew was injured too. So who did Scotland decide to play in his place? Surely one of our up and coming stars? Nope. Step forward 33 times capped for the full team; Kenny Dalglish, who was 24 at the time.

I don’t know if the Dutch played some ‘ringers’ in their team or not but in our line-up we had a few players who were capped already; John Brownlie of Hibs, Willie Miller of Aberdeen, Graeme Souness of Middlesbrough, Kenny Burns of Birmingham and Rangers ‘Derek Johnstone. Also playing that night were Thistle’s Alan Rough, Chic McLelland of Aberdeen, Willie McVie of Motherwell, Des Bremner, Joe Craig of Partick Thistle. David Narey came on as sub for Willie McVie.

Of course, with that all-star line-up we got beat 2 nil!

The return leg at Easter Road in March, 24th 1976 was to be the last Under-23 game, Scotland would play. From the programme notes; Willie Ormond is in charge, however Jock Stein had started out in charge of the Young Guns, until a car accident which nearly killed him in 1975 prevented him from seeing his team through to the knockout stages of the tournament. Dalglish was dropped for this game; either that or he couldn’t be bothered with it and was replaced by young Joe Jordan, also a sprightly 24. In fairness, Joe had been out with a back injury for a while and Ormond probably wanted to give him a run-out.

The full line-up was; Alan Rough, John Brownlie, Frank Gray (Leeds United), Rangers Colin Jackson, Willie Miller, Tommy Craig, Des Bremner, Willie Pettigrew, Joe Jordan, Joe Smith of Aberdeen and Derek Johnstone. Peter Dickson of Queen of the South would replace Joe Smith during the game.

In front of a crowd of over 32,000 Scotland grabbed two goals; one each for Rangers’ players Colin Jackson and Derek Johnstone to level the tie. However, we were to lose 4-3 on penalties and so ended our campaign and the last ever Scotland Under-23 game.

Holland lost out to eventual winners, the Soviet Union in the semi-finals but it was not all an unhappy ending for some of these these players as a fortnight later Rough, Frank Gray, Tommy Craig, Willie Pettigrew and Des Bremner were all given their full debut caps in a 1-0 win against Switzerland at Hampden in front of a measly crowd of 15,531. For Des Bremner and Tommy Craig these would be their only caps but then again it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all as the song goes.

As to the programme, on the front cover we can see Kenny Dalglish challenging for the ball and the unmistakeable taches’ of Messrs. Souness and Bremner. I have also scanned a picture from the inside just to enjoy the size of the lapels on David Narey and Willie Millers shirts.


Thanks to the Fitba’stats website for some of the facts as always.

David Stuart

First posted on Facebook 30th July, 2015