Happy Birthday Tom ‘Jaws’ Forsyth who will be 67 today. Tom will be remembered quite fondly by Rangers supporters but also us Scotland fans as he played a big part in the successful side that won the Home Internationals two years in a row and then helped get us to Argentina.
Tom was first capped as a Motherwell player in 1971 by Bobby Brown in a European Qualifier in Copenhagen. Jocky Scott also made his debut that night but Scotland lost one nil to a goal by Finn Laudrup; father of Brian and Michael. (No, not the Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs guys but the footballers).
It would be two years later and as a Rangers player that Tom would return to the side now under Willie Ormond; this was for the dead rubber game against Czechoslovakia in the World Cup Qualifiers as Scotland had already reached the finals. Once more, Tom was involved in a one nil defeat in Bratislava and it was apparently Tom who gave away the penalty having been adjudged to have handled the ball.
It would be almost three years later that Tom was brought back into the fold and would then be a consistent performer for Scotland for the next two years.
Tom’s first game back was the friendly against Switzerland at Hampden where among those making their debuts were Alan Rough, Frank Gray and Willie Pettigrew. Scotland won 1-0 from Pettigrew’s goal in two minutes. Tom had lined up in with Hibs player John Blackley in defence and rather oddly had been given the Captain’s role for the one and only time.
For the Home Internationals he would play alongside his Rangers central partner, Colin Jackson. Scotland swept all before them with a 3-1 victory over Wales and then a 3-0 beating of Northern Ireland. It is perhaps in the final game of the Championships that Tom cemented his reputation with Scotland fans. Kenny Dalglish had accurately put the ball through Ray Clemence’s legs to give Scotland a 2-1 lead but with moments remaining it looks as though Mick Channon is about to get a clear shot on goal until Tom rather deftly slides in and hooks the ball away cleanly away, where a lesser player may well have floored Channon in attempting to do this.
Tom played in a friendly in September ’76 where Scotland routed Finland 6-0 and then missed the opening two games in the 1978 World Cup qualification; a 2-0 defeat to Czechoslovakia in Prague and 1-0 win over Wales at Hampden.
He did return for the 3-1 friendly win over Sweden in April 1977, which would be Willie Ormond’s last game in charge before heading to Tynecastle to manage Hearts.
Ally Macleod started his reign as Scotland manager for the 1977 Home International series; Tom would play in all three games alongside Gordon McQueen. Scotland got off to a slow start with a 0-0 draw with Wales at the Racecourse Ground but hit their stride with a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland at Hampden a few days later. The England game is of course legendary with McQueen and Dalglish supplying the goals and for the pitch invasion as the final whistle went as Scotland had won 2-1.
A tour of South America followed with Martin Buchan partnering Tom throughout. The tour started with a 4-2 defeat of Chile in Santiago, then a 1-1 draw with future World Cup hosts Argentina. Don Masson said at the time “we didn’t just draw the game; we were cheated out of winning it.” Tom had been the fall guy as an Argentinian forward had dived for a penalty, which was given and scored with 9 minutes remaining. Don Masson had given Scotland the lead only four minutes earlier from the penalty spot.
Two second half goals gave Brazil a 2-0 win in the Maracana in the final game of the tournament. Overall it had been a good South American tour and it would be hoped to hold Scotland in good stead if they were to return the following year.
Tom played alongside McQueen in both the Czechoslovakia and Welsh victories that gave Scotland their place in Argentina. However, McQueen would be injured as Scotland stumbled through the Home Internationals in 1978 with two opening one each draws against Northern Ireland and Wales with Derek Johnstone scoring both the Scotland goals. For the England game; Forsyth lined up with Kenny Burns of Notts Forest as his partner and a rather nervy Scotland side lost out to a late Steve Coppell goal. Maybe with the World Cup just around the corner and McQueen already counted out, a lot of players were perhaps more worried about sustaining an injury than beating England?
Do I really need to go into the story of failure, despair, a moment of exaltation followed by more despair, in the realisation that we started the World Cup two weeks too late, that is the World Cup ’78 story? Anyway, Tom lined up with Martin Buchan for the Peru game but was dropped for the Iran game with Kenny Burns taking his place. Tom did come on as a second half sub for Buchan in this game and was on the pitch when the Iranians scored an equaliser.
In the final game and that which would be Tom’s final game for Scotland; Buchan was restored to the starting line-up as Scotland beat Holland 3-2 in the game that Archie Gemmill will be forever remembered for.
Buchan and McQueen were chosen to start Scotland’s first game of the 1980 Euro campaign in Vienna, Austria as the Scots went down 3-2. This would Macleod’s last game in charge and as Jock Stein started, he retained the central partnership and Tom never returned to Scotland duty although he would still go on to play for Rangers for a few more seasons.
Happy Birthday Tom and thanks for some great memories along the way.