(This article was first published on Facebook on February 10th, 2016)
Happy Birthday to Rambo. Yep, Sylvester Stallone is . . . nope sorry wrong guy, Alan McInally is 53 today. Alan was a big lumbering centre forward who took no prisoners on his way to goal often running through defences rather than at them. Despite a successful club career with the likes of Celtic, Aston Villa and Bayern Munich, he will not be remembered too fondly by Scotland fans for two reasons; Costa and Rica.
It was not until Alan had left Celtic and headed to Aston Villa that he was first given a cap by Andy Roxburgh in February 1989. He came on as a sub in the 68th minute for David Speedie against Cyprus in Limassol. You couldn’t really say it was like for like with Speedie standing at 5ft 7” and McInally at 6ft 1”. Scotland had equalised against Cyprus through Richard Gough, 15 minutes before and were desperate to get the winner. It would be Gough again, who would provide a moment of magic as he powered a header home in 96th minute to make it 3-2, a result that went a long way to seeing Scotland to Italia ’90 as would Mo Johnston’s double a few days later as they beat France 2-0 at Hampden.
However, McInally would have to wait a few games before being given his chance to shine. He was started up front against Chile at Hampden in a Rous Cup match in May ’89, alongside Speedie and would score his first Scotland goal four minutes into the game. Murdo MacLeod then playing in the Bundesliga with Dortmund scored early in the second half as Scotland won 2-0.
By the time of his 3rd Cap in September, McInally was also playing in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, where he had moved for a fee of just over £1m. Once more, he was a sub coming on late in the game for goalscorer Gordon Durie as Scotland lost 3-1 to Yugoslavia in Zagreb in a World Cup Qualifier.
A month later and Scotland were in the Parc des Princes in Paris, where they lost 3-0. Eric Cantona had scored France’s second goal shortly before McInally’s appearance in the 64th minute for Gordon Strachan. The game would end 3-0 but Scotland would qualify for Italia ’90 due to a point picked up at home against Norway in their final game.
World Cup warm-up time as Roxburgh shuffled his pack to see who would play in the World Cup. Alan was given his chance against Argentina in March, where Scotland beat the then World Champions with a goal from the unlikely of sources, Aberdeen full back Stewart McKimmie in only his third International would score in the first half to give Scotland a memorable 1-0 win. McInally was substituted in the second half to allow Brian McClair a chance to put forward his case for inclusion.
Cap 6 would see Alan come on for Mo Johnston in the 73rd minute in a friendly against Poland in May 1990. Mo had scored the opener but a horrendous own goal by Gary Gillespie in the 59th minute gifted the Poles a draw.
Next up was the mighty Malta and Scotland’s final warm up match and two goals for McInally in the Ta’Qali Stadium, made up Roxburgh’s mind to start McInally alongside Johnston as Scotland’s front pairing in our World Cup opener against Costa Rica. We all know it went pear shaped as these things often do it seems and McInally performed as badly as the rest of the team. With Scotland chasing the game after the shock of Costa Rica’s goal early in the second half, Roxburgh brought on McCoist alongside the other two front men but having taken off Jim Bett, Scotland sacrificed one of their more creative players and chances were few to equalise.
For most of us, this game lives on in infamy and McInally bears the brunt of our ire for the defeat and Roxburgh would choose to drop McInally in favour of Robert Fleck in the next game and indeed Alan never made it back into a Scotland shirt. Of course to me, one of the issues is why did we chose to play in that namby pamby T-shirt style top in our opening World Cup game and not the Blue of our first strip.
Knee injuries would soon see McInally’s career come to a premature end but for Scotland he goes on the list of Strikers who failed to match their club standards. Of course, Alan would go on to have a successful pundit career and along with Frank McAvennie is a perennial target for Only An Excuse, with a joke that’s played out long ago.
Happy Birthday Alan and all the best.
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