Happy Birthday Gordon Strachan who will be 59 today. Gordon gained 50 caps exactly for Scotland, scoring five goals in the process and has now been in charge of the team for almost half of that number.
His Scotland career did not get off the best of starts; first being capped against Northern Ireland in Belfast, in Scotland’s first return there in ten years, also making his debut that night was future team mate Peter Weir, who was then with St. Mirren. Scotland lost that game 1-0 and although they would beat Wales at Hampden 1-0, defeats to England, Poland and Hungary soon followed.
I had suggested recently that perhaps Gordon had saved Jock Stein’s Scotland career scoring the only goal in Sweden in the opening game of the 1982 World Cup qualifiers in Stockholm winning his seventh cap that night. Up until that point Jock had been in charge for 17 games and had only won 4; two against Norway and single goal victories over Northern Ireland and Wales.
However, there was still some stuttering along the way as Scotland made their way to qualification with Strachan missing most of the campaign with a stomach muscle tear. He made it back into the team for 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast as Scotland qualified.
Although, he didn’t score Gordon was involved in most of the goals as Scotland beat New Zealand 5-2 in our opening game of 1982 World Cup in Malaga, Spain. Strachan was replaced by David Narey late in the game. Although, Gordon played in the 4-1 defeat to Brazil, he was substituted late in that game too, with Kenny Dalglish coming on for him in the 65th minute. Rather, strangely in the final match against Russia, he was replaced by full back Danny McGrain as Scotland chased the win, with the game sitting at 1-1. This would be Danny’s final Scotland game as Scotland drew 2-2.
The 1984 Euro Qualifiers started with a good 2-0 win over East Germany at home with goals from John Wark and Paul Sturrock, however quick defeats to Switzerland and Belgium away from home, followed by a home draw against Switzerland saw Scotland play catch up. An indifferent Home International series with a draw (NI), a win (Wales) and a defeat (guess who) was followed by a three game tour of Canada with Scotland winning all three games and Gordon scoring from the penalty spot in the first game.
A draw at home with Belgium and defeat in East Germany saw Scotland end up as bottom of their qualifying group.
Another poor British championship was followed by a two nil defeat to France in a friendly which was Gordon’s last game as an Aberdeen player, having won 28 caps up to this point. His first as a Manchester United player came as a sub against Spain as Scotland lost in a World Qualifier in Seville in February, 1985.
Although, he missed the home tie defeat against Wales, Gordon played in three games in a row 1985. First came, the 1-0 defeat of England at Hampden with Richard Gough scoring the only goal, to give Scotland the first Rous Cup. This was followed up by the vital win in Iceland as a goal in the last four minutes from Jim Bett, saw Scotland only needing a draw at Ninian Park, Cardiff to progress to the play offs for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Davie Cooper would score a penalty with nine minutes remaining to equalise that would ultimately see Scotland through, but as we all know, this evening was tinged with tragedy as Jock Stein collapsed in the dugout and would die shortly after.
Gordon played in the first leg of the play off against Australia as Scotland won 2-0 with goals from Cooper and Frank McAvennie but did not travel for the second leg in December, 1985. It would be in March, ’86 when Gordon donned the Scotland shirt again in a friendly v Romania where he scored a peach of a goal in a 3-0 win.
As we all know, again Scotland failed to progress out the group stages in Mexico as they started with a 1-0 defeat to Denmark, which was followed by the 2-1 loss to West Germany in which perhaps came, Gordon’s most iconic moment as he pretended to leap the advertising hoarding after scoring the opening goal in the tie. In the final game, Gordon was hacked down by Batista in the very first minute, who was then sent off. Despite the man advantage for the next 89 minutes Scotland and Strachan failed to breach the Uruguayan defence and exited the World Cup.
Struggling to find form at Old Trafford, Gordon became a bit player on the International scene for Scotland for a while. He did play in two of the World Cup Qualifiers for Italia ’90 coming on as a sub as Scotland beat France 2-0 with goals from Mo Johnston and also in the return tie as France won 3-0 in Paris. These were Strachan’s first two games a Leeds United player but he would not be part of the squad for Italy.
However, Gordon and Scotland were not done as played an integral part in the team that qualified for the Euros in 1992, skippering Scotland on three occasions and also scoring with a penalty in a 2-0 win over San Marino. However, injury would see Strachan fail to make it to the Euros and his Scotland bow came in March, 1992 in front of a paltry 9,275 crowd at Hampden as Scotland played out 1-1 draw with Finland. Gordon captained the side that night for the fifth time.
Gordon has of course returned to the fold as manager in January, 2013 and although the disappointment of failing to qualify for this summer’s Euros is still fresh in our minds and heavy in our hearts, we all hope Gordon will prove to be the leader we all thought he could be and see us qualify for the World Cup in Russia, 2018.
Happy Birthday Gordon and all the best . . . for all our sakes.