Billy was capped seven times for Scotland, all of his caps coming during his time as first choice goalie at Love St., former home of St. Mirren. Billy started out at Partick Thistle and was understudy to Alan Rough, which he would also be to a certain extent in his time with Scotland.
At Firhill, Billy was regularly rolled out for Glasgow Cup games, League Cup games but was only between the sticks for the Jags once on League business. He was thought of fairly highly at the time and indeed gained his first two Under 21 caps with Thistle. However, in 1978 St. Mirren came calling with £50,000 for him, which was accepted and was quite a remarkable price for a reserve from an unfashionable club at the time.
St. Mirren were a good team at the time with players such as Billy Stark, Frank McGarvey and Tony Fitzpatrick and Peter Weir all blossoming at the time. Within a couple of years and with eight more Under-21 caps under his belt, Billy was picked by Jock Stein to play for Scotland against Northern Ireland in Belfast in 16th May, 1980, which was the first game Scotland played there for ten years. Also making their debuts that day were yesterday’s birthday boy Gordon Strachan and fellow Buddie Peter Weir. Scotland lost one nil to a goal from Billy Hamilton.
Like other pretenders to Big Roughie’s crown, Billy would have to wait for his next cap which came in March 1981 at Hampden with Northern Ireland once more providing the opposition ; this time though the stakes were higher as this was a World Cup Qualifier and not the Home Internationals. Once more, Billy Hamilton would do the damage putting the Irish into the lead in the 70th minute but this time around John Wark managed an equaliser 5 minutes and the game ended 1-1.
On his 3rd cap Billy would once again face the Irish but this time it was Scotland who came away with the win at Hampden in May ’81 with goals from Ray Stewart and Steve Archibald.
14th October, 1981 a vital World Cup Qualifier against Northern Ireland at Belfast where a draw would see Scotland go through to Spain ’82. Of course, Billy didn’t play; Rough was back in for this one, as the Scots drew nil nil to reach the World Cup again. However, with Scotland through to the finals, Billy was back in goals for the last qualifier against Portugal in Lisbon, which the Scots lost 2-1 despite Paul Sturrock putting them into an early lead.
Scotland once more faced Northern Ireland in April 1982 and this time it was Arsenal’s George Wood who was picked to start this one as Billy found himself falling down the pecking order. As Scotland headed to Spain; Rough, Wood and an uncapped Jim Leighton were the goalkeeping trio picked by Jock Stein with Billy left behind at home.
After the World Cup, Rough lost his starting berth as Jock Stein forged ahead with Jim Leighton as his ready-made replacement and Leighton started in Scotland’s next four games. Once more and rather bizarrely Billy found himself back between the sticks to face Northern Ireland at home in the British Championships in game that also ended nil nil.
Cap 6, came during a Scottish tour of Canada with Billy starting in the opening game in Vancouver where Scotland beat their hosts 2-0 with goals from Gordon Strachan and Mark McGhee.
Billy’s final Scotland game would come in another dead rubber game as Scotland finished their abysmal 1984 Euro qualifiers with a 2-1 defeat in the East German city of Halle in November ‘83 with Eamonn Bannon of Dundee united scoring the only Scottish goal. Scotland’s next game was once more in Belfast but Billy was not selected for that one.
As for Billy he went on to have a good career with Dundee United, after leaving St. Mirren under a cloud and then had stints with Motherwell, Rangers and Dundee before quitting.
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