Happy Birthday Alex Forsyth, who turned 64 on February 5th. Like John Hansen, Alex Forsyth was part of the Partick Thistle 1971 League Cup winning side, slotting in at left back and like Hansen he was a skilful, overlapping type of full back and he too would be first capped under Tommy Docherty.
Alex gained his first cap in Belo Horizonte, Brazil starting Scotland’s opening game against Yugoslavia in late June 1972, although he would be replaced by fellow Jag John Hansen at half time. Alex would then play the full 90 minutes for each of the remaining games of the tournament.
Scotland drew 2-2 with the Slavs and then went on to play Czechoslovakia in Porto Alegre, where they would play out a nil each draw. Scotland’s final game would be in Maracana, in Rio against the host nation Brazil, in front of a crowd of 130,000. Among those playing for Brazil were World Cup winners Clodoaldo, Gerson, Tostao, Rivelino and Jairzinho. Scotland held their own but Jairzinho would score the game’s only goal in the 80th minute and so Scotland headed back home.
Forsyth would play at left back in Scotland’s next game, a World Cup Qualifier in Copenhagen against Denmark in October ‘72. Jimmy Bone who had made his Scotland debut on the same night as Forsyth was given his only other cap that night. Scotland would win 4-1 with goals from Celtic’s Lou Macari, Bone and his second half replacement making his debut; Aberdeen’s Joe Harper and finishing off the scoring, Willie Morgan of Manchester United.
Forsyth would miss the visit of Denmark to Hampden a month later with Willie Donachie coming back into the team. However, Willie Ormond chose him to start in his first game in charge at right back. Alex had moved to Manchester United from Thistle for a fee of £100,000 at this point; unfortunately, Forsyth would become one of the scapegoats for Scotland’s humiliating defeat against England in February 14th 1973, losing 5-0. He would be dropped as would goalkeeper Bobby Clark of Aberdeen and Eddie Colquhoun of Sheffield United. The latter two would never play for Scotland again, although Clark did travel to Argentina as part of the 1978 World Cup Squad.
Forsyth was replaced by Danny McGrain in his debut in Scotland’s next game and with his partnership with Sandy Jardine about to come in to fruition, it was a long time until Forsyth was considered again. Willie Ormond named a provisional squad of 40 players for the World Cup in 1974; Alex was so far down the totem pole that he was not named among the 18 standby players on this list which included players like Dundee United’s Jackie Copland and Aberdeen’s Jim Hermiston.
However, caps number 6 and 7 came in quick succession in the winter of 1974 as he replaced Danny McGrain playing alongside Jardine in a 3-0 win over East Germany in a friendly at Hampden. Graeme Souness, then of Middlesbrough and Celtic’s Dixie Deans made their debuts that night.
Next up was Scotland’s first Euro 1976 Qualifier against Spain at home. Scotland took an early lead through Billy Bremner and would be given a chance to go two in front from the penalty spot, unfortunately Tommy Hutchison failed to convert the kick and Scotland were left to rue this as Castro of Spain hit a double and the game finished 2-1.
May 1975 was Forsyth’s next Scotland appearance, albeit very brief as he came on in the 89th minute for Jardine against Northern Ireland at Hampden, as Scotland were coasting to a 3-0 win with goals from Ted MacDougall of Norwich, Kenny Dalglish and Rangers’ Derek Parlane.
Scotland were hammered 5-1 by England four days later and it would be Jardine’s turn to be left out in the cold. Forsyth slotted in at right back on June 1st against Romania in Bucharest in another Euro Qualifier. This game finished one each with Gordon McQueen scoring a last minute equaliser; making their debuts were Jim Brown of Sheffield United in his only game and Willie Miller of Aberdeen. Willie would not play again until 1978.
Alex retained his place for the next qualifier away to Denmark, once more in Copenhagen. Joe Harper, then of Hibs would score the only goal but this game is better known for the minor fracas afterwards in a Danish bar. It would lead to bans for Harper, Arthur Graham, Pat McCluskey, Willie Young and sadly for team Captain Billy Bremner, which would end his fine Scotland career.
For Alex, that was it though, Willie Ormond would choose fellow Manchester United full back Stewart Houston for Scotland’s next game but ultimately it would be Willie Donachie of Manchester City who wold keep Forsyth out of contention as he began to build a solid partnership with McGrain.
Forsyth would go on to pay 100 League games for Manchester United before moving back to Scotland to play for Rangers, Motherwell and Hamilton.
Happy Birthday Alex and all the best.
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