Simon Donnelly is 41 on December 1st and had one of those blink and you missed it Scotland careers. Having made thirteen appearances for the Scotland under 21 team Simon graduated to the first team in May 1997. He came on for the last ten minutes replacing Kevin Gallacher in a friendly with Wales down at Rugby Park unfortunately John Hartson scored the only goal of the game for Wales that night. Also making his debut that night was Brian McAllister of Wimbledon who played 3 games for Scotland in total and who incidentally turned 45 on November 30th.
Although Simon and Brian would gain very few caps between them, the other three debutees that night would garner 164 caps between them. David Weir reached 69, Christian Dailly, 67 and Neil Sullivan a mere 28.
Another friendly a month later in the Ta’Qali Stadium in Valetta, Malta saw Simon replace his fellow Celt John Collins for the final 6 minutes of the game. Scotland won 3-0 with Darren Jackson bagging a double with Dailly scoring the opener.
Cap number three came in October ’97 as Simon once again was given scant minutes to prove himself replacing Gordon Durie with again 6 minutes to play. This was in a World Cup Qualifier against Latvia at Celtic Park that Scotland won 2-0 with Gallacher and Durie scoring the goals.
A month later and Simon got to taste the atmosphere of Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne in a friendly against France for all of seven minutes, coming on for Gallacher once more. Scotland lost 2-1 with Durie scoring the Scotland goal. Scotland would return to that stadium seven months later and be pumped by Morocco in our last game of the 1998 World Cup.
In a World Cup year there are always friendlies and 1998 was no exception as Simon would get a whole 26 minutes in a 1-0 defeat to Denmark at ibrox in March. 24 minutes against Finland in a 1-1 draw at Easter Road in April and then over to the USA to play Colombia at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford in May. Scotland drew 2-2 with John Collins and Craig Burley netting for the Scots. Simon got a full 39 minutes for that one. This was followed by a game against the US in the R.F.K. Stadium in Washington which ended in a nil nil draw and Simon getting a lowly eight minutes.
So not the most prestigious start to his Scotland career, however, he had still impressed enough for Craig Brown to give him one of the Squad spots for the World Cup in France, although for Simon there would be no game time in the tournament.
Simon would once more come on as a sub in a Euro Qualifier against Estonia on October 10th at Tynecastle but his fellow sub Billy Dodds would make more of an impact as he equalised in the 70th minute to make it one each. However, a few minutes later Estonia would take the lead once more. Simon would then take on one the full backs and put over a cross from the left wing which the Estonian Centre Half put past his own goalkeeper in the 77th minute. With a few minutes remaining Billy Dodds would grab a vital winner.
Simon in his first nine caps played a total of 129 minutes and finally was given a starting place and a full ninety minutes four days later at Pittodrie against the Faroe Islands. Scotland won 2-1 with Craig Burley and Billy Dodds scoring the goals and Smirnov hitting a penalty late in the game to give us all a nervy final few minutes.
And for Simon that was that. It might not seem much but he did manage to play in ten games against ten different opponents and even more remarkably in ten different stadiums; even more bizarrely six of which were in Scotland without once playing at the National Stadium with games at Rugby Park, Celtic Park, Ibrox, Easter Road, Tynecastle and finally Pittodrie.
Happy Birthday Simon.