November, 1999 and Craig Brown was about to unleash one of the most embarrassing episodes in Scotland’s history. As our thoughts and dreams were focused on the upcoming play off against England for the Euro finals in Belgium and Netherlands; Craig unveils his latest find Jamaican born David Johnson of Ipswich.
Apparently, Johnson qualified, not for having a Scottish mother or even grandparent but because he was a British Passport holder born outside of the UK, which meant he was eligible to play for any of the four Home Nations according to FIFA rules.
It gets even more embarrassing than that as he had already been part of England Under-21’s squads in 1998, although he had never played. He did, however, get a one minute cameo in an England ‘B’ match. As if, that was not enough; David who was born in Kingston, had been called up for Jamaica in March 1999 and played in four friendlies, scoring two goals.
However, due to the FIFA regulations even after this, David was still eligible for a place with a home nation. September, 1999; Northern Ireland came a courting and were rebuffed by Johnson in favour of joining up with Wales and he was called up for a game that month. Unfortunately, David was injured and withdrew from the squad.
Enter one Craig Brown and Scotland. Yep, despite David being chased by four nations already Craig Brown decided to stoop so low and asked him to pledge himself to Scotland; which he did.
Of course, this caused a massive furore and David was most definitely not wanted by the Tartan Army but Craig was willing to persevere. David was not selected for the play-offs with England as there were four strikers ahead of him in the pecking order but Brown promised he would get a game soon.
Scotland lost out in the play offs and by January 2000; this sorry episode came to an end. It turns out that an agreement drawn up by the Home Nations in 1993 meant that David only qualified for England as his mother was English. A slightly abashed Brown had thought that FIFA were aware of this. Perhaps Craig, you should have been aware of this as you were part of the Scottish set-up back then?
As for Johnson, he never did get picked again for Jamaica although apparently in 2004 Northern Ireland looked at his eligibility once more briefly.
I struggle sometimes with the grandparent rule but accept it for what it is. I am perhaps a bit naive that I always want players who’s first choice is Scotland but at the same time we have had a lot of players who once they’ve stepped over that white line have been as committed to Scotland as any home born Scot. I would hope though, we would never be like a host of other European countries and suddenly have second rate Brazilian’s playing for us just because of they hold a passport in the UK.