Ian McColl: Rangers stalwart and successful Scotland manager

When Ian McColl left school, he headed for the gothic tower of Glasgow University. It is a measure of how well he embraced one extra-curricular activity while there that his life would eventually be better known for his achievements under the rather different Twin Towers of Wembley Stadium. For any Scot, playing against England is the stuff of dreams. To manage a Scotland side that beats the auld enemy in their spiritual home, however, is rare indeed. McColl oversaw a 2-1 triumph over England at Wembley in 1963 which made Scotland the British champions.

Wembley was not the only citadel stormed that year. McColl's men went to Madrid's Bernabeu and thrashed Spain 6-2. The rich talent at McColl's disposal was indicated by the fact that two of his men, Denis Law of Manchester United and Jim Baxter of Rangers, were back at Wembley a few months later to play for the Rest of the World against England in celebration of the centenary of the Football Association.

McColl's four-year tenure, between 1961 and 1965, saw him establish the second-best record of any Scotland manager, losing only eight of his 28 matches. He failed to deliver qualification for a World Cup, but that was partly the result of wretched luck. In 1962 an injury-hit side lost a play-off to Czechoslovakia, who went on to reach the final in Chile, losing to Brazil.

What made McColl's managerial career all the more remarkable was that running the national team was his first job and that he acquired it at the age of just 34. He had, however, spent 16 years in a Rangers side which won six Scottish League championships.

Learning was McColl's speciality. The Vale of Leven Academy pupil left his Dunbartonshire home in 1943, when he was accepted by Glasgow University to study civil engineering. Once he got there, the teenager's talent for football saw him recruited by Queen's Park, the Glasgow club who were the pioneers of the British game but remain amateur to this day.

McColl swiftly earned a place in the Queen's Park team, at right-half, playing 57 games. Two years later, in June 1945, he turned professional, with Rangers. However, McColl had continued his degree and he was a part-time player during his long career at Ibrox, working for Rangers and FJC Lilley, civil engineering contractors.

Ian McColl (christened John Miller McColl – Ian being a Scots form of John) was the grandson of William McColl, who played for the Dunbartonshire side Renton in the 1895 Scottish Cup final and was capped by Scotland. Ian made his Rangers début on 16 August 1945, in a 4-2 win over Partick Thistle and went on to make 647 appearances, 538 of them in competitive matches. He won six League titles, five Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups.

McColl was an elegant player, yet his fame was established in the unglamorous trade of defending. He was part of a unit that was dubbed "The Iron Curtain" by the press as they kept out opposition forwards with such ease that Rangers conceded less than a goal a game en route to the title in 1949. This group of men – the goalkeeper Bobby Brown and the full-backs George Young and Jock Shaw, with McColl, Willie Woodburn and Sammy Cox in front of them – played 353 out of 360 League games between 1948 and 1950.

McColl scored 15 times for the club and was a member of the first Rangers side to participate in the European Cup, in 1956-57. He went out on a high in 1960 when he played in a Scottish Cup final win over Kilmarnock. He then took charge of the Rangers reserves before replacing Andy Beattie as Scotland manager.

The appointment reflected McColl's international experience – he won 14 caps over eight years, three against England – but also the fact that he helped out, as a player-assistant, in the successful 1958 World Cup qualifying campaign. However, in those days the role of national manager was merely to suggest players for inclusion – the final selection was made by a committee at the Scottish Football Association.

McColl's advice was good enough to set up wins over England in the Home International Tournament for three successive seasons between 1962 and 1964 and a 2-2 draw at Wembley in 1965, a few weeks before he resigned to be replaced by Jock Stein, who combined the role with his job at Celtic.

McColl, though, was still in demand. A month later he took charge of Sunderland, a club then nicknamed "The Bank of England", for their spending prowess. His first large cheque was issued to Rangers for the talented but wayward Baxter. The player, however, never hit the heights at Roker Park that he had at Ibrox and he left the club before McColl did, in 1968.

At 41, McColl returned to Scotland and went into business as a civil engineer. He then became a coal merchant and, latterly, ran a guest house in Milngavie near Glasgow.

John Miller McColl (Ian McColl), footballer and manager: born Alexandria, Dunbartonshire 7 June 1927; married (one son, one daughter); died Glasgow 24 October 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager / Sales - UK New Business

£24000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

MBDA UK Ltd: Mission Planning and Control Solutions Systems Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? A pro-act...

MBDA UK Ltd: System Design Capability

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? The small...

Recruitment Genius: Time Served Fabricator / Welders - Immediate Start

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific