First posted on Facebook, September 1st, 2016
Continuing our series of Scottish players making their debuts, this time it’s Aberdeen legend Willie Miller. Willie would make his debut on June 1st 1975 in the Romanian city of Bucharest. Scotland were a bit bruised and battered by the time they reached Bucharest. They had started badly in the European Qualifiers losing to Spain at home in November, 1974 and by the end of May things had gotten worse as they had been crushed 5-1 at Wembley by the Auld Enemy.
A week later and a game that they must win awaited them in Romania. Dropped from the previous game were to be Stewart Kennedy (surprise, surprise), Ted MacDougall who had been replaced by Lou Macari during that game was fully replaced by Lou for this one and perhaps surprisingly Alfie Conn was replaced by Willie Miller of Aberdeen playing in a more midfield role.
Also making his debut that day was Jim Brown of Sheffield United in goals. Scotland would draw 1-1 in the dry, heat of Bucharest with temperatures in the 80’s. Although they would go 1-0 down midway through the first half, Gordon McQueen would rescue a point in the 92nd minute with a volleyed goal from inside the area. However, although Scotland could still qualify mathematically realistically they were out of the tournament.
According to Jim Blair of the Glasgow Evening Times “Miller impressed by his cool play and ability to read situations”. Ian Archer of the Glasgow Herald stated that Miller “looked assured”.
So with a good debut in hand you would think Miller was on the cusp of an International career. Not so, Willie would not play again for another three years almost. I can’t think of any other player that we would define as a legend having to wait so long for his second cap; World Wars accepted.
It would be Ally MacLeod that would cap him in February, 1978 in a friendly against Bulgaria at Hampden. Under Ally MacLeod Scotland only won two games in 1978 and this was to be one of them, despite the loss of an early goal; with Ian Wallace scoring his only Scotland goal and a Archie Gemmill penalty that would see Scotland scrape a 2-1 win.
Once more, time on the sidelines awaited Willie and Jock Stein gave him his third cap finally in November 1979, unfortunately for Willie it was against Belgium in Brussels. Scotland lost 2-0 and although he wasn’t picked to play in the next few games, in May 1980 Willie did something for Scotland he would never do again. Willie scored a goal! Cap number four came against Wales at Hampden in the Home Internationals and Willie scored the only goal of the game. Jock would play Willie in the next seven games and his place in the team was secured.
Willie would play at the World Cups in Spain and Mexico but injury in the final qualifying game for the 1990 World Cup would effectively end his Scotland career. Willie gained 65 caps in total.
It’s not too surprising that he played with Aberdeen Central Defence partner Alex McLeish 44 times in the dark blue of Scotland and also with Jim Leighton 39 times. Following on from that he played 33 times with Richard Gough, Graeme Souness 30 times and also with Roy Aitken and Gordon Strachan 29 times as well. 39 games were played under Jock Stein. (Thanks to the Fitbastats website for these figures).
Willie was also voted as one of Scotland Greatest Team in 2010 and you won’t get much argument from me on that one.