Happy Birthday to Alex Young who turned 79 on 3rd February. It is almost incomprehensible to anyone looking back in the late fifties and early sixties, to be told that a striker who won two Championships with Hearts, scoring 71 times in 155 league games and then going on to win the English First Division with Everton in season 1962-’63 scoring 22 goals in the process would only win 8 caps.
It’s bizarre to think about it, as it puts him one above Craig Mackail Smith and one below James Mackie on the all-time list. Then again Mackie and Mackail never had Denis Law to contend with; perhaps their style was too similar and they weren’t reckoned to be a good fit together as the likes of Ian St. John were matched in beside Law more often.
Alex was first capped as a Hearts player lining up in a front line featuring Alex, Denis Law, Ian St. John and Andy Weir both of Motherwell and Fulham’s Graham Leggat against England at Hampden in April, 1960. Leggat would score for Scotland after 16 minutes but Bobby Charlton would equalise through a penalty in the second half and that was the way it finished.
Alex’s next cap saw him come on for Denis Law after only twelve minutes in Vienna in May 1960. As far as I can tell this was the first time Scotland had ever been allowed to use a substitute and would still be only used sparingly and only in friendlies until the late sixties. Austria won 4-1 with Dave Mackay scoring the only goal for Scotland.
Scotland followed up their trip to Vienna by going to Budapest a few days later. Scotland drew with Hungary 3-3 with goals from Willie Hunter of Motherwell, George Herd of Clyde and Alex, notching his first Scotland goal.
3 days later and Alex was also part of a unique Scottish eleven as they lost 4-2 to Turkey in Ankara. To this day, this is bizarrely the only time Scotland have ever played Turkey. Alex was the scorer of Scotland’s second goal with Eric Caldow converting a penalty for the other.
Alex played in the first two Home Internationals in the 1960-’61 series, firstly against Wales in Cardiff in October where Scotland lost two nil and then a month later in a 5-2 victory over Northern Ireland at Hampden, where Denis Law returned to the side. Scorers that day were Law, Caldow with a penalty again, Young and Ralph Brand of Rangers hitting a double on his debut.
By Alex’s next Scotland game he was an Everton player. Scotland had begun their World Cup1962 campaign with two games in quick succession against the Republic of Ireland in May of 1961. They won the first leg at Hampden 4-1 with Ralph Brand again hitting a double along with Arsenal’s David Herd bagging a brace too.
4 days later Scotland won 3-0 with Young coming in for Herd, whom I assume was not fit for the game. Alex scored two with Brand once more supplying a goal.
And that was that for five years for Alex. In the meantime Alex would become a celebrated member of the Everton ’62-’63 side, he was nicknamed the Golden Vision by Everton fans. This had come about from a quote about him by Spurs double winning Captain Danny Blanchflower. He had expressed it as this “the view every Saturday that we have of a more perfect world, a world that has got a pattern and is finite. And that’s Alex – the Golden Vision.”
It was John Prentice whose four game Scotland management career, resulted in three defeats and one drawn game that brought Alex back for one more game for a friendly v Portugal in June 1966. The Scots lost one nil and that was it for Alex, although he would play for Everton for a couple of more seasons. In total eight caps and five goals was all he managed with Scotland
So Happy Birthday Alex or as Blanchflower christened you the Golden Vision and all the best.