First posted on Facebook, August 14th, 2016
Continuing our series of Scotland players and their debut games; this time it’s Billy Bremner. Billy was first capped on 8th May, 1965. He was only the second Leeds United player to be capped for Scotland; Bobby Collins had been recalled to the Scotland team for the first time in six years the month before, due to a renaissance in his career and therefore became the first.
Billy lined up in midfield alongside Bobby and also making his debut was John Hughes of Celtic for a friendly against Spain at Hampden. The game ended nil nil but was a rather feisty affair. Gair Henderson of the Evening Times states “Scotland – the dirtiest team in Europe.” He then cites two recent games at Hampden that ended in brawls, the game against Uruguay in 1962 where apparently the ref ended the game writhing on the ground having been punched by an unknown Scotland player and then the match with Austria in 1963 that was abandoned when a free for all got out hand and was ended with 11 minutes to go.
As to this Spanish game, Gair felt the ref was too lenient on the Scots, who he describes as thugs. In the 38th minute Denis Law clashed with a Spanish player Zoco, leaving the Spaniard writhing on the ground. Once, he recovered Zoco hobbled twenty yards up to Law and clocked him one on the jaw. Law did not retaliate and the ref sent Zoco off but there then followed a melee and the Spanish team would not accept the ordering off unless Law was sent off too. Remarkably Zoco was allowed to stay on the field. Henderson goes on to say that Law, Alex Hamilton, John Grieg and Bremner were all guilty of overly aggressive play.
Spanish defender Reija was sent off in the 88th minute for what was described as disgusting tackle on Bremner. According to Henderson though, despite saying “he still gives the impression that he must make up for his lack of inches with aggressive action”, Billy was still one of the better players on show.
Within days of this game, Ian McColl was sacked by the SFA and replaced by Jock Stein for the vital World Cup games that were to follow later in the month; away to both Poland and Finland. Jock would not choose Billy for these matches and it would be October that year before he gained his second cap, unfortunately this was in the 2-1 defeat to Poland at Hampden in the World Cup. However, Billy would become a regular after this game.
John Greig would be the Captain of the team up until a friendly in October 1968 against Denmark in Copenhagen where Billy was given this honour by Bobby Brown. Greig was still included in the team for this game and subsequent ones too. Billy would score his first Scotland goal in his very next game as Scotland beat Austria 2-1 in our opening game of the 1970 World Cup Qualifiers. Billy would captain Scotland a total of 39 times, only George Young who led Scotland 48 times has surpassed this.
It is perhaps ironic that where his Captaincy begun it all ended as Billy would be banned for life from the Scotland team following a minor fracas in a Copenhagen nightclub and the subsequent fallout from that.
It was a sad end to a great Scotland career. Billy will be forever known as one of the Scotland greats.