Happy Birthday John Spencer, no not the snooker player nor the actor from West Wing but the wee guy that used to play for Chelsea and Scotland. Oh right, him but wait David, its John Greig’s birthday on the 11th as well, surely we should be celebrating that? Well, aye but we already did a piece on him this year away back in Julember. So sorry Mr. Greig but you will have to wait for next year.
Anyway back to John Spencer, who will be 45 on September 11th. John mainly had a bit part to play in our successful Qualifier campaign for Euro ’96 but did start a in our first two games of the tournament itself. This was a period where like today, we didn’t have a great goalscorer available to us with the exception of Ally McCoist who at this point was used sparingly but quite effectively if you look at wins against Greece in qualifying and Switzerland in the finals. Generally though, it was players like Gordon Durie, Darren Jackson, Scott Booth, Duncan Shearer who were all hard working earnest players who gave their all but lacked that International class.
John’s first game was as a sub against Russia coming on for Bolton’s John McGinlay in the second half at Hampden in November 1994. Scott Booth had opened the scoring in the 19th minute but Dmitri Radchenko had equalised shortly after and that’s how the game finished.
The following month and it was another qualifier against Greece in Athens coming on for Billy McKinlay; the Greeks had already scored from a dubious penalty and again there was to be no further scoring.
John would feature again as a sub in an away qualifier in April, 1995 against the mighty San Marino in Serraville with John Collins and Colin Calderwood scoring the goals that gave the Scots a 2-0 win. John came on for Duncan Shearer.
His first start came in the Kirin Cup as Scotland drew nil nil with hosts Japan in Hiroshima in May ’95. At this point you may have noticed that John’s hasn’t got on the scoresheet as yet. I wouldn’t bother skipping ahead to see when that happens as John never did hit the back of the pokey in his fourteen games.
Cap number five saw John line up beside Scott Booth in another qualifier against Finland in September ’95 at Hampden. John Collins took a short corner and passed to Spencer who passed it back, Collin’s crosses and Booth scores with a header. Whoo-hoo one nil in ten minutes and that’s how it stayed.
Then came the pre-tournament friendlies; John started or came on as a sub against Australia at Hampden (1-0, McCoist), Denmark in Copenhagen (pumped 2-0), USA in New Britain (beat 2-1, Durie our only goal), Colombia in Miami (beat 1-0).
With that confidence boosting run of games we entered the 1996 Euro Finals. First up John started against Netherlands at Villa Park. Scotland had their chances but failed to find the net as did the Dutch, as we ground out a nil nil draw. John was replaced by Scott Booth at the start of the second half.
John once again started against England at Wembley but was replaced by McCoist in the second half, like the Dutch game Scotland had chances, notably Gary McAllister’s missed penalty but lost out two nil in the end.
In what was to be our final game of the championships against Switzerland at Villa Park, Ally McCoist started instead of John and scored a wonderful goal which turned out to be the winner. John came on for Ally with six minutes or so to play.
John would play twice more for Scotland in a World Cup qualifier against Latvia in Riga, which the Scots won 2-0 with John Collins and Darren Jackson scoring and coming on as a sub in a one nil friendly defeat to Wales at Hampden in May 1997. This was his only game as a QPR player, but the emergence of Kevin Gallagher and Darren Jackson partnership up front that saw us qualify for France 1998 and John’s own club career dwindling, combined to ensure he never played again for the national team.
So John Spencer 14 games and no goals is it worth remembering? Well it is in a boring statto way to me, as sometimes, it’s when you’re not looking for something you come across it. John played against Russia, Greece, San Marino, Japan, Finland, Australia, Denmark, USA, Colombia, Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Latvia and Wales. Yep, fourteen games and fourteen different nations. So Jamie Forrest, is not a record holder but for now it’s John Spencer; unless you know different.
Happy Birthday John.
First posted on Facebook September 11th, 2015