First posted on Facebook on August 4th, 2016
John Wark was one of those players I loved as an Ipswich Town player, not so much as a Scotland player. Sometimes though it’s all about timing; who is it you’re playing alongside, which positional changes are made to fit you in the team, where does the Manager want me to play etc.
For John, all of this is true. Ally MacLeod brought him into the squad apparently for the East Germany friendly in June 1977 but a hamstring injury forced him to withdraw. It is quite intriguing to think of John making his way into the team and contention for Argentina and how much of a difference it could have made.
However, it was not to be and John would have to wait until 19th May, 1979 for his Scotland debut. It was not the most auspicious of starts as we were thumped 3 nil by Wales with John Toshack scoring all three. Also making their debuts that day were Alan Hansen, Paul Hegarty and George Burley.
The first few years of Jock Stein’s reign weren’t that spectacular, as I have said before; a lot of the time he would play with three centre halves almost. It was not uncommon to see Miller, McLeish and Narey in his line ups, alternating with Hansen and even Wark making up the trio. So for the most of his early games John seemed to be a holding midfielder whereas his Wikipedia page describes him as an offensive midfielder. With that moustache and long unkempt hair I can understand what they mean. Seriously though John’s look was one of the things I liked about him; that whole couldn’t give a monkeys if facial hair was unfashionable thing.
In some ways you couldn’t argue that John didn’t get a good initial run in the team for he played in all nine Scotland games that year. It’s a pity we only won 2 games, drew 2 but lost the other five including a 3-1 defeat to England with John scoring his first Scotland goal. Of course, we did suffer the double curse of playing in Euro Championships and also playing Belgium, who thumped us both home and away.
John doesn’t play at all in 1980 for Scotland, his club stats suggest he was an almost ever present for Ipswich at this time; he does however return for a World Cup Qualifier against Israel in Tel Aviv in early 1981 where Scotland scrape by 1-0 with Dalglish scoring the only goal. As Scotland slouched towards qualification his goal against Northern Ireland in a one all draw at Hampden was quite important but ultimately it would be wins against Sweden that would see us though to Spain ’82 along with Northern Ireland.
John would also score against the Irish in 1981-82 Home Internationals just before the World Cup. He would go on to play in all our World Cup games scoring two against New Zealand in our 5-2 win.
Another disappointing Euro campaign followed, although Scotland did start with a win against East Germany at Hampden with John scoring the opening goal but with Belgium and Switzerland in our group defeats soon followed. John would score against the Swiss at Hampden in the two all draw that saw Charlie Nicholas burst onto the International scene with that brilliant goal.
Caps 27, 28 and 29 came as a Liverpool player, the final one being John’s last. John played the first half against Yugoslavia in that famous 6-1 win, which was only attended by 18,512 but which 30,000 claim to have been at. Although, John’s first full season at Liverpool was quite successful as he scored 27 goals in total; injury and the signing of John Barnes would see him play less and less for the Reds and with that his Scotland career finished. John played 29 times for Scotland scoring 7 goals, which would be quite good for a Scotland striker never mind a midfielder.
Happy Birthday John and all the best for the coming year.