First posted on Facebook, 13th June, 2016
Alan Hansen will be 61 today. Despite his years as Liverpool captain and over 600 appearances for the club, Alan only gained 26 caps in total. Truth be told, his club form never really transmitted to the International stage.
Having moved from Partick Thistle for £100,000 in 1977, Alan established himself as part of the Liverpool team fairly quickly. In May 1979, Jock Stein gave him his first start down at Ninian Park, Cardiff against Wales. Also getting their first caps were George Burley, John Wark and Paul Hegarty. Hansen and Hegarty had a torrid time and were torn apart by John Toshack, then playing for Swansea. Toshack hit a hat-trick with no reply from the Scots to give the Welsh a 3-0 win.
Hansen was the only one of the four new starts dropped with Gordon McQueen coming back into the team. Alan would return at the start of June when in the Hampden sunshine, Diego Maradona ripped Scotland apart with a dazzling display announcing himself on the world stage as a precocious 18 year old. World Champions Argentina won 3-1 with two goals from Leopoldo Luque and a third from Maradona.
Cap three, came in November as Scotland lost to Belgium (again) at Hampden, 2-0 in a Euro Qualifier. However, come March 1980 and finally Alan had that winning feeling in a Scotland shirt as Scotland routed Portugal 4-1 at Hampden in a Euro Qualifier. It would also be Alex McLeish’s debut for Scotland. Kenny Dalglish, Andy Gray, Steve Archibald and Archie Gemmill provided the goals.
Jock Stein in the first few yaers of his reign, always preferred to play with three centre halfs and over the next few months Hansen would lose out to Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and David Narey as his chosen three. However, come the start of the 1982 World Cup campaign, Hansen lined up with the Aberdeen duo in the opener against Sweden in Stockholm. Gordon Strachan would score the only goal to give Scotland a great start in their group.
Hansen also played in the draws with Portugal and Northern Ireland at home; wins against Israel and Sweden. By the time of their penultimate game in the group Scotland only needed a draw against Northern Ireland in Belfast. Stein reverted to a straight forward partnership and Alan played alongside Willie Miller in what was a tense match at Windsor Park. Both sides had chances to win the game but it would end 0-0 and Scotland had qualified for Spain.
By the start of 1982, Alan had 11 caps and by the end of it 20. It would be fair to say that Jock Stein was unsure of his best pairing. As Scotland prepared for the World Cup in two friendlies (Spain 0-3, Netherlands 2-1) and the three Home Internationals; Northern Ireland 1-1, Wales 1-0 and a 1-0 defeat to England, Stein changed his line up each time. He started with Hansen and McLeish, then Aston Villa’s Allan Evans and Willie Miller followed by Evans, McLeish; Hansen and Narey and finally against England, Hansen and Evans. It would be the latter two that would start against New Zealand in Malaga in Scotland opening World Cup game.
Scotland would win but two shipped goals may have given Stein food for thought and Miller was back in place alongside Hansen for the next game against Brazil. It was a bit of a shock to us all when David Narey opened up the scoring with a thunderbolt in 14 minutes. Of course, the Brazilians took this in their stride and they cruised to a 4-1 win.
Once more, a final game in the group would be the decider in Scotland’s progress to the next round; for the game against the U.S.S.R. read C.O.C.K.U.P. as Miller and Hansen managed to collide and leave the ball to Shengelia and give the Soviets the lead with only six minutes remaining. Graeme Souness would grab an equaliser but once more it was too little, too late.
Credit to Jock Stein, he never dropped either of them and in Scotland’s first four games after the World Cup they were the middle pairing for three of them. Scotland started off their campaign for the Euro Finals in 1984 with a 2-0 win against East Germany at Hampden in October ’82. However, a month later and they would suffer the reverse score being well beaten by the Swiss in Berne. Scotland’s next game saw McLeish partner Hansen at the back but saw us lose 3-2 to Belgium in Brussels despite two stunning goals from Kenny Dalglish.
March ’83 would see Scotland draw 2-2 in a game that is famous for Charlie Nicholas’ debut wonder strike but Scotland had lost two goals to the Swiss all too easily. Hansen would lose his place in the team for almost two years, before making a return in March ’85‘as a sub against Wales in a World Cup Qualifier. Alan came on in the 57th minute replacing Arthur Albiston but by then the Welsh had taken the lead and would leave Hampden with both points in the bag.
After the death of Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson brought Alan back into the team for a friendly against Romania but once again this was only a substitute appearance as Scotland coasted to a 3-0 win. Ferguson would, in some quarters controversially leave Hansen out of his squad for the Mexico ’86; to others it was not a surprise as Hansen did not fit well with the Scottish style in some ways and produce his best football.
After the World Cup, Andy Roxburgh tried to fit Hansen back into the team and he played in the three games of the Euro ’88 qualifiers, Republic of Ireland, away where a 0-0 draw was achieved, an expected 3-0 home win over Luxembourg and then in February 1987 a defeat to the Republic at Hampden by one goal to nil.
That was it for Hansen and for many it is quite puzzling as to why he never gained more caps particularly those that followed the game down South. It is hard to pinpoint; allegedly he didn’t like to take part in friendlies but maybe it’s just because he never had a commanding game for the team or a string of great performances and with the likes of Miller, McLeish, Narey and Hegarty all being available, the competition was strong enough to merit his exclusion at times.
To be honest I don’t know the answer, however I am at this point going to get on my High Horse. Alan Hansen is included in the images that emblazon Hampden Park at the moment. I am not too sure, how you can justify that when the likes of McQueen, Hendry, McFadden and others are noticeable by their absence. Hansen played at Hampden 13 times for Scotland playing in a winning side seven times, losing four and drawing the other two. Does he deserve to be recognised in this way?
Anyway, Happy Birthday Alan despite my grumbling and all the best.