First posted on Facebook on October 10th, 2016
Happy birthday to Dundee United legend Paul Sturrock. Paul was capped nine times at Under-21 level and won 20 full caps between 1981 and ’87.
It was Jock Stein who would give the striker his first cap in May, 1981 at the Vetch Field, then home of Swansea. Paul came on in the 85th minute for Arthur Graham who was winning his eleventh and final cap. Scotland had been 2-0 down since the twentieth minute and that was how it finished. Also, making his debut was former Dundee United team mate Ray Stewart, then playing with West Ham.
Sturrock played the whole of the 2-0 win over Northern Ireland a few days later and was given ten minutes of the victory over England at Wembley with John Robertson providing the game’s only goal from the penalty spot.
His first goal came in his next International; a dead rubber of a game in Lisbon with Scotland having qualified for the World Cup in Spain. Scotland lost 2-1 but along with Northern Ireland qualified leaving Portugal, Sweden and Israel in their wake.
He was a bit part player in the 1982 Home International series making 3 substitutes appearances and would also make the World Cup Squad, however Paul would not take part in any of the games.
He would though come on, in the 71st minute of the first game of the 1984 Euro Qualifiers and would score Scotland’s second goal four minutes later as the Scots ran out 2-0 winners against East Germany at Hampden.
It’s fair to say, that was as good as it got for Sturrock and Scotland in the qualifiers as away defeats to Switzerland and Feckin’ Belgium soon followed with two home draws to both and a final defeat in Halle, Germany.
Sturrock did play all ninety minutes of the June ’83 tour of Canada but still kind of flitted in and out of the team. His third and final goal for Scotland came in that amazing night at Hampden in September, ’84 as the Scots routed Yugoslavia 6-1 at Hampden. The other goals came from Cooper, Souness, Dalglish, Johnston and Nicholas; Paul was in exalted company in that scoring list.
Paul won his 15th cap that night but would have to wait until after Scotland had qualified for 1986 World Cup before playing again. The premature death of Jock Stein meant that it was Alex Ferguson who would reinstate him to the team, in a 1-0 friendly win in Tel Aviv against Israel in January, ’86.
Fergie seemed to favour Dundee United players in particular during the World Cup in Mexico and Sturrock was given a starting place in the opening 1-0 defeat to Denmark, being replaced by West Ham’s Frank McAvennie late in the second half. He was left out for the Germany game but returned to the side for that dire, dire game against Uruguay in the Estadio Neza, in which Scotland failed to fashion very few chances despite being one man up for almost the entire 90 minutes. I have a recurring nightmare where I end up in hell and the devil repeatedly plays the game over and over again. I wonder if Stevie Nicol has the same dream.
Paul would gain one more cap, this time with Andy Roxburgh in charge, unfortunately for both parties, it was a Euro Qualifier in Brussels in April, 1987. Scotland were crushed 4-1.
And so that was it for Paul, although he would play for Dundee United for a few more seasons before moving into coaching and then management.
Happy Birthday Paul and all the best.