(This article was first published on Facebook on 19th February, 2016)
Pat Crerand will be 77 today. It would be fair to say that Pat is a rather abrasive character and well known for saying what he thinks, which made him such a great TV pundit in the early 70’s. He was also seen as a man who has been known to throw a punch or two or as Denis Law once said about him, “If he starts, the best thing to do is put out the lights and lie on the floor.”
However, Pat was also a fine footballer and in the 60’s, the saying among Manchester United fans was “If Pat Crerand plays well, United play well.” Given the amount of talent in the United period of the time that is a compliment of the highest order.
Pat started off his career at Celtic and it is rather surprising that of his 16 Scotland caps, only 5 came when he was part of the Old Trafford set up. His first cap came in May 1961, a fortnight after Scotland had been mauled by England 9-3 at Wembley. Pat had come in to start in place of Dave Mackay and would keep Mackay out the team for 11 games in a row. It is perhaps ironic that a man with such deep seated Irish roots as Crerand, that he faced the Republic of Ireland on his debut at Hampden. This was the first of a double header against the Irish in a four day spell which was the start of the World Cup 1962 campaign. Ralph Brand of Rangers and David Herd of Arsenal scored a double each as Scotland won 4-1. Four days later and the Scots ran out 3-0 winners at Dalymount Park in Dublin with Alex Young of Everton scoring two early goals before Brand added a third in the last few minutes.
A week later and things did not go well for Pat and his teammates as they lost 4-0 to group rivals Czechoslovakia in Bratislava. However, as goal difference did not count in those days; a victory over the Czechs in September would see Scotland at the very least go into a play-off with the Czechs for a place in Chile.
Hopes could not have been too high that night as only a then, paltry crowd of 51,590 turned up to cheer Scotland on. Twice Scotland went behind and twice they pulled it back through goals by Ian St. John and Denis Law. It would be Law who was playing for Torino at the time, who would have the last word scoring the winner with seven minutes to go.
Pat then played in the first two games of the Home International Series of 1961-62, against Northern Ireland and Wales, which were traditionally played in the winter. Scotland beat N. Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast 6-1 with the goals being shared by Rangers trio Davie Wilson, Ralph Brand with 2 and a hat-trick from Alex Scott. A month later in November, the Scots beat Wales 2-0 with an Ian St. John double.
With Czechoslovakia having despatched the Republic Ireland 3-1 and 7-1 away and at home respectively, a play-off was scheduled for November 29th, 1961. The Scotland side was somewhat depleted as goalkeeper Eddie Connachan of Dunfermline and Hugh Robertson of Dundee made their international debuts; two more Dundee players Alex Hamilton and Ian Ure were only playing their second Internationals. It started quite well in the Heysel Stadium, Brussels with St. John giving Scotland a first half lead. The Czechs pulled it back in the 70th minute but St. John, a minute later put the Scots ahead again. However, Scotland could not hold out and parity was restored in the 82nd minute with a Czech equaliser. The game headed to extra time and it was the Czechs, no doubt boosted by that late equaliser who went on to score two more as Scotland’s World Cup dream fell apart.
Consolation was on its way as Scotland beat England 2-0 at Hampden to win the British Championships in April ’62 with goals from Davie Wilson and a late penalty from Eric Caldow. A 3-2 home defeat to Uruguay a few weeks ended Scotland’s season.
Next up, was a narrow 3-2 win at Ninian Park, Cardiff in October, with goals from Caldow again, Denis Law and making his debut Willie Henderson. Cap 11 came at Hampden Park in November ’62 as the Scots routed Northern Ireland 5-1. Well, really it was the Denis Law show as he hit four that day with Henderson chipping in another.
By the time, the England game rolled around in April ’63, Pat was missing from the line up and Dave Mackay had been reinstated. Pat had by this point joined Manchester United two months beforehand. Scotland went on to win 2-1 in a famous Wembley win and retain the Championship.
After this, Pat would be capped a further five times; in October ’63 he lined up alongside Dave Mackay against Northern Ireland in Belfast but the Scot were to lose 2-1.
Then came a flurry of caps in 1965 as he firstly lined up against England at Wembley as Scotland narrowly failed to beat England for four games in a row, settling for 2-2 draw with goals from Law and St. John. He was then involved in three of our World Cup Qualifiers for the ’66 World Cup. Scotland began with two credible away results; a 1-1 draw with Poland in Chorzow with Law again being on target in late May ’65. Four days later a good start to the campaign was cemented with a 2-1 in Helsinki v Finland with Davie Wilson and John Greig providing the goals.
Pat’s final appearance in a Scotland shirt ended in disaster as two late, late goals by Poland saw the Scots lose 2-1 at home in a vital World Cup Qualifier, which ultimately scuppered Scotland’s chances of going to England in ’66.
For Scotland’s next game Bobby Murdoch was brought in and Crerand would only be involved as a reserve beyond this point until he eventually called it a day as did many a player in the 60’s frustrated by the lack of playing time given to them.
His career at Manchester United would hit higher heights as he would win the English First Division twice and then went on to lift the European Cup with them in 1968. Pat continues to be involved with all things Man United and is part of MUTV. His book ‘Never Turn the Other Cheek’ is well worth a read as he was and is a very interesting character.
Happy Birthday Pat and all the best.