First posted on Facebook 20th August, 2016
Ronnie McKinnon celebrates his 76th birthday today. Rangers player Ronnie was capped 28 times for Scotland from 1965 to 1971. His first cap came in front of a crowd of 100,393 as he was pitched into a World Cup Qualifier against Italy at Hampden in November, 1965. Celtic captain Billy McNeill was injured at the time, who would unable to wrest his place back from McKinnon for the majority of the Scotland games in the latter part of the 60’s.
Scotland won their game against an Italy side containing the likes of Mazzola and Rivera but left it late with John Greig hitting the only goal in the 88th minute. After playing in a 4-1 win over Wales at Hampden in November, McKinnon and Scotland then faced Italy away in Naples. The Scots were hampered by call offs and indeed manager Jock Stein resorted to listing Ron Yeats as his centre forward. Scotland lost 3-0 and their World Cup hopes were sunk.
1966 was in many ways a miserable one for the Scots with 3 home defeats in a row all with McKinnon playing. England beat the Scots 4-3 with Jimmy Johnstone hitting a double. This was followed by a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands where Scotland manager John Prentice in his brief stint as manager fielded a side with no Anglos or Celtic players.
Scotland played two games late in June with Eusebio and Portugal winning 1-0 before Pele and his Brazil team rolled up on June, 1966. Stevie Chalmers gave Scotland early lead before Servilio equalised shortly after to give the Brazil the draw.
The 1966 / ’67 and ’67 / ’68 Home Internationals Series would double up as Euro Qualifiers. Scotland started with a draw at Ninian Park, Cardiff in October ’66, with Denis Law scoring an equaliser four minutes from time. This was followed by a 2-1 win over Northern Ireland at Hampden a month later.
Manager Malcom MacDonald had come and went by the time Scotland would get to Wembley ’67. Bobby Brown in his first game in charge would continue with McKinnon in the centre alongside John Greig at Wembley. Scotland of course, went on to win 3-2 as we all know and were holding the upper hand in the Qualifying group.
However, the wheels would fa’ aff the barra at this point as they headed to Belfast to play Northern Ireland. Although Scotland would only be beaten 1-0 to a goal by Dave Clements; this game is well known for George Best being at his imperious best and running the show throughout. A month later though they did get back to winning ways against Wales at Hampden despite going down 2-1 at one point. Scotland fought back with Alan Gilzean hitting his second and then Ronnie scoring his only Scotland goal for the winner in the 78th minute.
Scotland still had a chance to qualify but would need to defeat England at Hampden. Ronnie lined up in defence and for the first time with Billy McNeil partnering him. Alas, it was not to be, Martin Peters put England ahead after twenty minutes and although John Hughes of Celtic would score in the 39th minute, Scotland could not get the winner they sought and their qualification petered out with England topping the group.
Winter, 1968 would bring World Cup action and once more Ronnie kept his position at the centre of defence to face Austria at Hampden in November. Scotland would lose an early goal in two minutes but Denis Law would score within five minutes to level the score. Billy Bremner would score his first Scotland goal in the 75th minute to send the 80,856 crowd home happy.
A month later and in front of a lowly crowd of 5,895 in Nicosia, Scotland won 5-0 against Cyprus with doubles from Alan Gilzean and Colin Stein with Bobby Murdoch grabbing the other.
April, 1969 would bring West Germany to Hampden for the vital World Cup Qualifier, the wily Gerd Muller would grab the opener in the 38th minute and for so long it looked like Scotland would face defeat until Bobby Murdoch scored in the 88th minute to equalise and keep Scotland’s qualifying hopes alive.
McKinnon would miss Scotland’s next few games probably due to injury, to be replaced by McNeill, which included a 4-1 defeat at Wembley to England. He would however return for the last two games of the campaign away to Germany and Austria. Jimmy Johnstone would give Scotland an early lead after 3 minutes gone and the Scots held out until an equaliser came in the 38th minute. Gerd Muller would score in 60th minute to give the Germans the lead but this would only last a few minutes as Alan Gilzean replied for Scotland almost immediately after. Reports do suggest that Scotland were well worth the draw but alas it was not to be as Libuda scored in the 81st minute. The relief of the German crowd was quite apparent as a mini-pitch invasion followed. Tommy Gemmell would be sent off with a minute remaining, for kicking out an opponent in retaliation to compound the misery for the Scots.
Who knows what would have happened had Scotland held out for the draw. Would they have went to Vienna with a different mind-set a month later and with a stronger team? Like most what if, maybe’s; it doesn’t really matter as history books show that Scotland lost 2-0.
That game was Ronnie’s 20th and he would play another eight times for the National side but 1970 and ’71 were poor ones for Scotland and Ronnie’s Scotland career would peter out like that of Manager’s Bobby Brown, playing his last game in Moscow against the USSR in a meaningless friendly in June 1971 with a team that only had Ronnie and Colin Stein having caps in double figures such was the disinterest in playing the game. Scotland lost one nil.
Tommy Docherty would soon take over and Ronnie’s place would be given over to Eddie Colquhoun of Sheffield United. Ronnie would of course continue to play with Rangers for the next few years until a leg break in the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners Cup would see him denied a place in the final but also end his Rangers career. Ronnie would move to South Africa to play football and would live there for many years to come until moving back to Scotland and he now lives near Stornoway.
Happy Birthday to Ronnie’s twin brother Donnie who served Partick Thistle well for many a year as a player and coach. Donnie was also part of the Scotland set-up for a number of years too. Happy Birthday to you both and all the best.