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Happy Birthday to Billy Dodds, who will turn 48 today. It’s fair to say that in the pantheon of great Scotland forwards Billy Dodds will not be among them, for fans growing up in age of Denis Law, Kenny Dalglish and then latterly Mo Johnston and Ally McCoist, the likes of Dodds, Darren Jackson, Paul Dickov and others of that ilk will not be highly regarded. However, in fairness to Billy, there can’t be too many who worked as hard for the team as he did and he almost gave us the chance for a play-off to 2002 World Cup.
Billy had made his debut as an Aberdeen player in a 1998 World Cup Qualifier against Latvia in Riga in October ‘96 coming on as a sub for John Spencer of Chelsea. Scotland won 2-0 with two excellent goals from John Collins and Darren Jackson. Billy only remained a bit player in the Scotland set-up and was not picked in the squad for the finals in France.
However, in his return to the team in October ’98, Billy who was then playing for Dundee United would make an instant impact. Scotland had been toiling 0-1 to Estonia at Tynecastle and Billy replaced Ally McCoist in the 69th minute. This would Ally’s last cap for Scotland as well as Jim Leighton’s final game. By the 70th minute Dodds had his first touch and Scotland had equalised. However, Scottish fans joy was not to last long, as the Estonians took the lead once more six minutes later. Again, though with pressure from Dodds, defender Hohlov-Simson put the ball into his own net in the 79th minute from a Simon Donnelly cross for an equaliser. Scotland and Dodds were not finished there; as in the 85th minute a clever through ball from Allan Johnston of Hearts who was making his debut, found Dodds in space to score the vital winner.
With this, Dodds began to be first choice striker for Craig Brown and repaid this in the very next game with a goal right on the stroke of half time at Pittodrie in October ’98 to give Scotland a 2-0 lead over the Faroe Islands. Craig Burley had opened the scoring but there were some nervous moments as the Faroes reduced the deficit to 1 goal with a penalty in the 86th minute, however Scotland hung on for the victory.
Scotland had some poor results in the rest of the qualifiers losing home and away to Czechoslovakia, although Dodds only played in the game in Prague in June of ’99; in which Scotland were two goals up with 30 minutes to play, only to lose 3-2. Billy also played in the 1-1 draw with the Faroes.
However, there was a better result in Bosnia-Herzegovina when Billy and Don Hutchison scored the goals to give Scotland a 2-1 victory in Sarajevo.
Despite some poor results Scotland still made the play-offs and caps 14 and 15 for Billy were won in the double header tie against England. Paul Scholes had given England a 2-0 lead in the first half and on a memorable night a Don Hutchison goal in the first half at Wembley saw the Scots push the English all the way for an equaliser that didn’t come. C’est La Vie.
By the time of pre-tournament friendlies with France, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland, Dodds had become a Rangers player. Scotland lost 2-0 to France, drew 0-0 with the Netherlands but beat Ireland with goals from Don Hutchison and Barry Ferguson in Dublin.
Scotland’s qualifying group for the Japan / South Korea 2002 World Cup was quite daunting with Croatia and Belgium both in their group but Scotland played well in the group and only missed a play-off place by two points to Belgium.
Scotland had a slow but steady start to the group beating Latvia and San Marino away from home although the nature of it, wasn’t spectacular as they won in Latvia 1-0 with a goal from Neil McCann in the 88th minute and beat San Marino 2-0 with goals from Hutchison and Matt Elliott.
Billy missed the away game to Croatia but Scotland came away with a point after surviving a tricky opening period, only going down, one nil to a Boksic goal in 15 minutes and then Kevin Gallacher equalised in the 24th minute, that seemed to take the wind of the Croatians sails and Scotland held on for a plucky draw.
24th March, 2001 was a day of the highest highs but ultimately the lowest of lows but hey we were playing Belgium, what did we expect? Scotland got off to a great start at Hampden that day with Billy Dodds scoring in the very first minute and this was added to in the 28th minute as Billy smashed a penalty into the net following a handball and the resultant sending off of Eric Deflandre of Belgium. Scotland should have been home free and a goal in 58 minutes from Wilmots should have warned them but alas in the 90th minute + 2, Van Buyten equalised to give the Belgians a point to shock the nation.
Billy would be among the scorers as Scotland beat San Marino 4-0 four days later with Colin Hendry scoring two and having a wee dig with his elbow too and Colin Cameron getting the other.
1st September and Croatia came to Hampden and Scotland fought out a tough nil nil draw but four days later defeat to Belgium in Brussels, two nil, sealed Scotland’s fate and indeed would be Billy’s last game for the national side. Billy played 26 times for Scotland scoring seven goals.
Scotland won their final game against Latvia 2-1 at Hampden and indeed had played well in the qualifiers beating the minnows home and away, gained a great point in Croatia but ultimately the losing of that late goal against Belgium cost them a play-off place.
Happy Birthday Billy and all the best, among other things, thanks for that 20 minute goal burst in the Estonia game and those first 28 minutes against Belgium. If only, if only, if only . . .