First posted on Facebook, August 21st, 2016
Also, having a birthday on August 21st is Paul Ritchie, who will turn 41. Like David Hopkin, Paul Ritchie only played seven times for Scotland and although their careers overlapped, they never played in the same team.
If you have read Scott Cockburn’s excellent ‘Club and Country’ article in the first Scotland Epistles, Paul Ritchie is one of the players mentioned in it. The gist of the article is about Scott’s ambivalence in supporting Scotland because as a Hearts fan over the last twenty years or so, he’s had to endure many a Jam Tart making the grade as an Internationalist for Scotland and then leaving Hearts, primarily for Rangers. If you think about it there’s Ritchie, Dave McPherson, Alan McLaren, Andy Webster, David Weir, Neil McCann, Allan Johnston and even Lee Wallace who all ended up at Ibrox even if via other clubs.
As for Ritchie, although he only played seven times; he managed to play in games against Germany, England, France and the Netherlands, which not too many have on their résumé. Paul’s first appearance was in a friendly with Germany in Bremen, which rather surprisingly the Scots won 1-0 with a goal from Don Hutchison. Paul had come on as a sub for Colin Hendry in the 66th minute just after Don scored. Also making his debut that night was club teammate Colin Cameron who won 11 of his 28 caps as a Hearts player.
Paul’s next game saw him line up alongside Colin Calderwood in defence for Scotland against the Czech Republic in Prague in June 1999. This was to be a night of ecstasy and agony for the Scots and Ritchie. It all started well with Paul heading a goal in the 30th minute, which was then added to by former Hearts player Allan Johnston who was with Sunderland at the time, 62 minutes into the game.
Unfortunately, for Scotland the Czechs got one back almost immediately and followed this up with an equaliser ten minutes later. More misery was added on, as that carthorse of a player Jan Koller, scored with a header with three minutes to go.
Cap number three came in the final game of our Euro 2000 group in October 1999 with Paul lining up alongside Brian O’Neill, then of Wolfsburg at the centre of defence. Scotland beat Lithuania 3 nil at Hampden with goals from Hutchison and Gary McSwegan and Colin Cameron both of Hearts. Their place as runners up was well assured prior to this and so it was off to the play-offs against . . . England.
Paul played in the first leg, a month later at Hampden which as most of us know Scotland lost 2-0 with a Paul Scholes double doing the damage. Paul missed out on the return leg with Mr. Hutchison once again finding the net for the solitary goal on a night we pummelled England but failed to get that second goal to take it into extra time.
Although we never made it to the finals we were in demand as opposition for those going to the finals as games against France at Hampden and Netherlands at Arnhem in March and April 2000 respectively were arranged. Paul was to play in both these games but was no longer a Hearts player having fallen out with the club over the refusal to sign a new contract and so was shipped to Bolton on loan. Scotland lost to France 2-0 and drew nil nil with the Netherlands. Although, Paul finally got the move to Rangers, he apparently desired in the summer of 2000, he never kicked a ball for them and was shipped off to Man City for £500,000 a few months later. As for Scotland caps, Paul was to receive another in 2004 during Berti Vogts’ tenure as the Scotland manager whilst playing for Walsall. Sadly for Paul, this came on the night Robbie Earnshaw ran riot for Wales scoring a hat trick in a four nil mauling. Happy Birthday Paul and all the best.