First posted on Facebook on May 12th, 2016
Happy Birthday to John Blackley who turns 68 today. John gained 7 caps in total over a period of 4 years from 1973 to 1977 and played for Scotland at the World Cup in West Germany.
All of John’s caps came as a Hibs player where he was a vital part of the defensive make-up of the Hibs side known as ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Of this team; John Brownlie, Erich Schaedler, Pat Stanton, Arthur Duncan, Alex Cropley and latterly Des Bremner would all be capped along with John.
His first cap came against Czechosolvakia in October ‘73 in a World Cup qualifier, which in Davis Cup terms would be classed as a “dead rubber”, with Scotland having qualified for World Cup by virtue of 2-1 victory at Hampden the month before. Willie Ormond’s side was not packed with experience with several others like Tom Forsyth, Tommy Hutchison and David Harvey all winning their second caps. Czech legend Nehoda would score the only goal in Bratislava after seventeen minutes to give Czechoslovakia the win. Donald Ford of Hearts would also make his debut coming on in the 58th minute for Denis Law.
One man’s fortune is another man’s bad luck and so it proved for John as Martin Buchan returned to the Scotland line up in the months leading up to the World Cup playing in the central role alongside Jim Holton, having been dropped after the 5-0 defeat to England in February 1973. However, John’s luck turned and injury to Buchan in the Home International against Wales at Hampden in May ’74 saw John back in the team for the final game in the Championships against England at Hampden. The line-up that day included four players from the Scottish Champions; Celtic and four from the English Champions; Leeds United as well as Sandy Jardine of Rangers, Jim Holton of Manchester United and Blackley. Scotland won 2-0 with goals from Joe Jordan (although it was Mike Pejic of England who got the final touch) and Colin Todd putting in to his own net. This day was famous for Jinky Johnstone’s World Class display and two fingered salute afterwards to the gentlemen of the press.
John retained his place for the first pre-World Cup warm up against Belgium on June 1st, which Scotland lost 2-1 with Jimmy Johnstone scoring the Scots goal. Buchan would return for Scotland’s next game against Norway but was considered too much of a risk to play in Scotland’s World Cup Opener against Zaire on June 14th in the Westfalen Stadion, Dortmund. It is well known Scotland won 2-0 with goals from Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan. For John this would be his last action of the World Cup as Buchan returned.
John would be on the peripheral of the team over the next few years as the likes of Tom Forsyth, Gordon McQueen and Colin Jackson would be preferred. He would start in three more games for Willie Ormond; the first a friendly against Switzerland in April 1976 which Scotland won 1-0 due to a Willie Pettigrew goal.
He would play in a World Cup Qualifier against Wales at Hampden in November ’76, which Scotland would win by virtue of an Ian Evans own goal and would start the trail to Argentina. John’s final cap was in Willie Ormond’s final game in charge in April 1977. Scotland played Sweden in a friendly at Hampden and comfortably won 3-1 with goals from Hellstrom (o.g. of course), Dalglish and Joe Craig. John would play for the first 76 minutes making way for David Narey who would be making history as first player to be capped whilst playing for Dundee United.
Ally MacLeod never played John but did pick him for a lot of his squads and John is featured in quite a lot of the commercial side of things prior to the World in 1978 i.e. adverts, records, books and even his own beer mat but he was never to play again for Scotland nor did he make the final cut for Argentina.
John would move to Newcastle United in 1978 where he would team up with John Brownlie for a season before moving to Preston North End, Hamilton and finally back to Hibernian for one last hurrah before going into management and coaching for a number of years.
Happy Birthday Sloop and all the best.