I was adding some team photos to the Scotland Epistles website and I remembered this one which was used on a Thistle website recently and added this too as it’s quite an interesting photo. It shows the Under 21’s team from an Irish triangular tournament in May 1998. Of course around this time most of us were thinking of the World Cup which was only a month away and that mouth-watering opener against Brazil.
This is the line up for a game on May 19th that year. I’m sure if you look closely you will recognise quite a few faces although only a few ever made it to the full squad. The line-up is as follows; Back row – Lee McCulloch (Motherwell), Gavin Strachan (WGS’s boy) (Coventry City), Russell Anderson (Aberdeen), Alan Archibald (Partick Thistle), Jim Lauchlan (Kilmarnock), Neil Alexander (Stenhousemuir). Front row – Craig Dargo (Raith Rovers), Craig McEwan (Raith Rovers), Craig Easton (Dundee United), Barry Ferguson (Rangers) and Stuart Campbell (Leicester City).
Barry Ferguson would be the first of the team to make it into the full Scotland team at the age of 20 making his debut four months later in the first fixture after the World Cup, coming on as a sub in a Euro Qualifier against Lithuania in Vilnius, a game that ended in a nil nil draw. Barry would go on to win 45 caps in total.
Russell Anderson was next to make an appearance at the age of 23, coming on as a sub in a friendly v Iceland in Reykjavik in October, 2002. Scotland won 2-0 with goals from Christian Dailly and Gary Naysmith. Naysmith would make way for Russell in the 89th minute. Russell would win a total of 11 caps for Scotland. There’s no doubt that major injuries had a lot to do with him not surpassing this total.
Lee McCulloch would have to wait until he was 26 to make his first team bow in a World Cup Qualifier against Moldova in Chisinau coming on in the last four minutes for Steven Thompson. McCulloch was a Wigan player at the time and would gain 18 caps in total.
The final player to make the grade would be Neil Alexander then of Cardiff City, who would win his first cap as he neared his 28th birthday in 2006, playing against Switzerland at Hampden in another one of those home friendly defeats that seem to happen all the time in that era. Neil would replace Craig Gordon at half time. Scotland lost 3-1 with Kenny Miller hitting the lone Scots goal.
Neil would play in both games of a rather successful Kirin Cup in Japan a few months later and that would be it although he has been picked for the squad a few times since.
So there you go out of a starting eleven only four reached their potential and played for the first team although some of the others did have good club careers.
As to the score we got pumped 3-0; so maybe it’s not surprising some of them didn’t make the grade.