Charlie Cooke will be 73 on October 14th. Charlie was one of a glut of great Scottish wingers in the 1960’s with the likes of Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Henderson, Willie Johnston and Eddie Gray all playing at the top of the game. Like Eddie McCreadie, Charlie was one of my early heroes as he was part of that flamboyant Chelsea team that flourished in the late 60’s, early 70’s and probably more importantly to me; he was always in the football cards of the time.
Having started at Aberdeen in the early sixties, Charlie moved to Dundee and then Chelsea in 1966. His first cap came in 1965 as a Dundee player in November, 1965 against Wales in a Home International at Hampden. Also making their debuts, were goalkeeper Bobby Ferguson of Kilmarnock and Jim Forrest of Rangers. Remarkably both Willie Henderson and Willie Johnston were also in the line-up, which must’ve ran the Welsh ragged as Scotland ran out 4-1 winners with Bobby Murdoch scoring two and one each for John Greig and Willie Henderson.
Scotland were to be less cavalier in their next game, so only Charlie of our triumvirate of wingers made the selection as Jock Stein tried to shuffle the pack of an injury decimated squad to face Italy in Naples in a World Cup Qualifier. In a masterstroke of Leveinien stature, Jock gave Ron Yeats of Liverpool the number nine shirt to confuse the Italians but really he was just playing an extra centre half. Those clever Italians sussed this and Scotland lost three nil.
Charlie returned to the Scotland team in June 1966 as World Cup Prospects Portugal and Brazil came to Hampden. Scotland lost one nil to Portugal featuring Eusebio and drew one all with Brazil with Pele, Gerson and Jairzinho all playing at Hampden. Stevie Chalmers of Celtic would score the Scotland goal.
After a two year wait, Charlie was back in favour as he played in the Euro Qualifier decider as Scotland faced England at Hampden in February 1968, knowing a win would see them through to the Euro play-offs. Unfortunately, like many a Scotland team, we failed to progress as we drew one each with John Yogi Hughes scoring the Scots equaliser. This was followed by a friendly with Netherlands that ended nil nil.
Charlie played in our first three World Cup 1970 qualifiers; the first in November ’68, a fine 2-1 win over Austria with Law and Bremner doing the damage. Then the game in Cyprus which Scotland won 5-0 with Alan Gilzean and Colin Stein grabbing doubles and Bobby Murdoch the other. As for the game against West Germany at Hampden, Charlie came on as a sub for Bobby Lennox in 63 minutes with the score one nil to Germany. Bobby Murdoch would score in the 88th to equalise.
As for that years’ Home Internationals, Charlie played in an eight goal thriller at the Racecourse, Wrexham against Wales with Scotland winning 5-3. Reports of the time suggest that this was perhaps Charlie’s finest performance for Scotland as the Scots lost an early two goal advantage to have the score sit at three all until Charlie seemed to take the game by the scruff of the neck and saw Scotland score two late goals for the victory.
Charlie also played in the one all draw with Northern Ireland but missed out in the Big One against the Auld Enemy and given we were pumped 4-1, maybe he wasn’t too aggrieved about that.
Cap twelve came in the 8-0 mauling of Cyprus at Hampden, 13 in the final game of the Mexico ’70 campaign as we lost 2-0 in Vienna to Austria. 14 in that muddy 3-0 defeat to Belgium in 1971 in the first of a new Euro qualifier campaign which we posted the video of a few weeks ago.
By the end of 1971 Scotland had a new manager in Tommy Docherty, who as Chelsea manager had splashed out a club record £72,000 for Charlie in 1966 but Charlie didn’t gain any more caps under him and by 1972 had moved to Crystal Palace.
By ’74 Charlie was back at Stamford Bridge and a resurgence in his career saw him picked for his last two caps for Scotland under Willie Ormond; for firstly a Euro Qualifier against Spain in Valencia which ended in a one all draw and then a friendly at Hampden which ended with a Scotland one goal victory over Portugal through a Artur own goal.
Happy Birthday Bonnie Prince Charlie.