First posted on Facebook, May 9th, 2016
Happy Birthday to Big Don who will be 45 today. Although, English born Don was very proud of his father and his father’s Scottish heritage. Don was capped 26 times for Scotland and scored 6 goals. Scotland never lost a game in which he scored.
Don was first capped by Craig Brown as an Everton player, having already played for the likes of Liverpool, West Ham and Sheffield United in March, 1999, coming on as a sub for Gary McAllister in the 64th minute in a Euro Qualifier against the Czech Republic. This would prove to be Gary’s last game for Scotland. Scotland had lost two first half goals and some of the crowd began booing McAllister in the main. Gary would announce his retirement shortly after this game. In the game itself, Scotland would equalise four minutes after this change with Eoin Jess pulling one back, however the game ended 2-1.
Don would start and score in the next game as Scotland played in that horrible salmon pink number of the late ‘90’s. Mind you it didn’t stop them from gaining a famous 1-0 friendly win against Germany in Bremen in April ’99.
Don’s next game would be in September of the same year, where he opened the scoring scrambling the ball home after a Billy Dodds’ header was saved against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo. The home side equalised shortly after but Dodds hit a shot from outside the area to put the Scots in front just before half time and that’s how it finished.
The Czech Republic would be clear winners of the group with 30 points; the Scots had some stumbles along the way with blank score draws in Lithuania and Estonia but would be runners up in the group, seven points ahead of the third placed team.
Don scored again in what was his fifth international as the Scots beat Lithuania 3-0 at Hampden with goals by Don, Gary McSwegan and Colin Cameron, all of which came in the second half.
So Scotland made it to the play-offs and England in November awaited them. Paul Scholes would hit a double at Hampden in the first leg and the advantage was England’s going into the second leg. Four days later and Scotland hit England with everything they could muster in the second leg at Wembley. Don would score with a header in the 39th minute to give us all hope and despite a valiant effort, Scotland could not grasp that vital second goal.
Don won his tenth and final cap with Everton in May 2000 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin in a 2-1 friendly win over the Republic. Craig Burley had scored an own goal two minutes into the game but Don would once again score shortly after and with Barry Ferguson scoring in the 29th minute Scotland came away with the win.
Scotland started their campaign for the World Cup in South Korea and Japan with two away wins; the first in Latvia with Neil McCann hitting the only goal with two minutes remaining. Don started the campaign as a Sunderland player and would resume his goal scoring in the second game as Scotland beat San Marino 2-0 in Serravalle. Matt Elliott scored the other. At this point Don had scored 6 goals in 12 games but would fail to hit the net in his final 14 games for Scotland.
Scotland did a lot of things right in their World Cup campaign; winning both home and away against the minnows; drawing with the ultimate winners of the group Croatia both home and away but in reality it would be the letting Belgium back into the game at Hampden in March 2001 after going in front with two goals and a with player advantage that would see them fail ultimately. Don would play in all the games of the campaign; his 17th cap would come in the home draw against Croatia and as a West Ham player, once again, having moved for a fee of £5million.
Berti Vogts would be a year into his management of Scotland before Don would make an appearance, injury at West Ham had hampered his return to Scotland duty. He would only be given the first 45 minutes of the game against the Republic of Ireland at Hampden in a friendly in February 2003. Scotland had lost two early goals as the game ended with a 2-0 defeat.
Don would win 7 caps under Berti and most would be in pretty forgettable games (as we wish the Berti years were overall); however he would be come on as part of a double substitution in the 65th minute in a Euro Qualifier against Lithuania along with Darren Fletcher who would score five minutes later to help Scotland clinch a playoff place against the Netherlands.
His final Scotland cap would come against the Netherlands in the first leg at Hampden in November, 2003. He would make an scant appearance coming on in the 90th minute for goal scorer James McFadden as Scotland won the first leg 1-0.
Don’s later footballing years were filled with injury issues and his career wound down with stints at Millwall, Coventry and Luton Town.
Happy Birthday Don and all the best.