First posted On Facebook on October 2nd, 2016
Happy Birthday to winger Willie Morgan who will turn 72 today. Willie was first capped, not as a Manchester United player but as a Burnley player. His first cap came in October, 1967 at Windsor Park, Belfast. This is the match that is famous for George Best tearing the Scots defence apart time and time again. Willie had been chosen to play out on the left wing due to injury to Bobby Lennox the week before, having been clouted on the head by a Racing Club of Argentina player during their Intercontinental Cup tie at Hampden the week before. Also, missing at the time were Billy Bremner, Jim Baxter and Jimmy Johnstone due to suspensions, at club level I assume.
Scotland were defeated 1-0 and Willie obviously didn’t make the impact he hoped and was left out of the Scotland side for almost five years returning in April, 1972 for a friendly against Peru at Hampden. Also recalled that night by Tommy Docherty to the side was his Man. U. teammate Denis Law. The fact that it was Docherty that recalled them is perhaps a bit ironic given their treatment by him during his tenure of the United management post. Scotland won 2-0 and although he would not be picked for that season’s Home Internationals; Willie was back in the side for all three games of the Brazilian Independence Cup and would play in the first two Qualifiers for the 1974 World Cup. Both these games were against Denmark home and away. Willie was to score his only Scotland goal in the 4-1 win in Copenhagen, October ’72.
Willie Ormond continued with Morgan in his side right up until the defeat against Northern Ireland at Hampden in May 1974. By this time Morgan had won 18 caps; 16 of them consecutive. And the man that replaced him; the one and only Jimmy Johnstone. Scotland won 2-0 and Jinky would keep his place for the England match, which of course he ran the English ragged in and is seen as perhaps his greatest game in a Scotland shirt with Scotland winning 2-0.
Willie would play twenty one minutes of the World Cup warm game replacing Johnstone in the defeat to Belgium.
The big surprise would be that neither Morgan nor Johnstone would start in Scotland’s opening game of the World Cup as Ormond chose to go without a winger to compensate for Denis Law’s inclusion against Zaire.
Ormond would chose Morgan ahead of Johnstone for the two final World Cup games and perhaps it was more about his knowledge and trust of Morgan and what he could bring to the side having played in for the vast majority of the games he had managed; that Morgan was more likely to play to Ormond’s tactics and be a team player than Jinky. This is all conjecture on my part but the thrust Johnstone could have brought to the team through individual genius may have proved to be the difference between winning and drawing the games against Brazil and Yugoslavia.
As it was, these were to be Willie’s final games for Scotland as Manchester United plummeted into the Second Division and although Willie would lead them back up as Captain he would not be recalled to the side.
Willie may not go down in history as one of the great Scottish wingers but there is one Golden moment in his time with the National side; take a look again at the game against Czechoslovakia where Morgan turns inside his man and with the outside of his foot floats in the most precise of crosses to Joe Jordan to score. Genius.
Happy Birthday Willie and all the best.