Football: Matches of their day: Just like auld times

Euro 2000 Battle Of Britain
Click to follow
The Independent Online


ON THREE successive visits to Wembley I managed four goals and I still hold the scoring record for a Scotland player at the stadium, but, ironically, the game supporters always talked to me most about was not any of the victories but the 2-2 draw in 1953 when I scored twice, including a last-minute equaliser.

That probably meant more because we were down to 10 men. Sammy Cox, our full-back, was taken off with a broken leg and there were no substitutes in those days. Later, at the post-match reception, Sammy hobbled over to me and gave me a huge hug and on the train back to Edinburgh the next day, fans kept doing the same.

There was a wonderful rapport in those post-war days between fans and players. We travelled down to the match on the same train as the supporters. We only had two Anglos - Liverpool's Billy Liddell and Billy Steele of Derby - and we picked them up on the way.

The rest of us were from Scottish clubs, and not the Old Firm either: we had players from St Mirren, Falkirk, Clyde, Raith Rovers, as well as Hearts and Hibs, with whom I won the Scottish League title twice in the 1950s. It was a great period for Scottish football.

Funnily enough, in '53 England's two goals were also both scored by the same man, Ivor Broadis of Newcastle. England had a great team then, with players such as Tom Finney, Billy Wright and Stanley Matthews, yet it was perhaps Scotland's most successful time at Wembley. We won 3-1 in 1949 and I scored, even though I was playing at outside left - against Manchester United's John Aston - instead of the centre-forward position that I played for Hibs.

Walking out at Wembley, though, was unbelievable, and there were maybe more than 30,000 Scots, but they all wore colours, unlike the England fans, who sported no favours. The effect was colossal, a sea of tartan wherever you looked, and it seemed as if we had 100,000 of our own fans there.

I was back again in 1951 and scored again, in a 3-2 success, in which Billy Liddell and Bobby Johnstone also netted, and I also scored in a 2-1 defeat at Hampden in 1952, but Hampden never held the same appeal as Wembley: it was the big one.

I played in 1955, when we got slaughtered 7-2, and also in a 2-1 defeat in 1957, but out of my 38 caps it was that day in 1953 that earned me the nickname "Last-minute Reilly" which stuck with me.




PLAYING AGAINST Scotland is always a great thrill, but particularly as it was my first game at Wembley. And there was also the fact that Stan Matthews was playing and he was an idol of mine. He used to play for Stoke, where I came from, so they were my team. To think that he was still playing in that match at the age of 40. So we were a couple of Potteries lads together.

Before the match Duncan Edwards, who was only 18 and making his debut, was as lively as a schoolboy. He didn't seem to have a care in the world, whereas Stan, who was playing his umpteenth match for England, was almost too nervous to tie his own bootlaces. He was always keyed up because he had standards he always wanted to reach. Stan knew the pitfalls there could be at any level but things had gone right for Duncan all his young life. He was a great player... he would have become the best ever.

Stan, bless him, claims that he made all seven goals. I'll let him think that but he certainly had a hand in everything of a positive nature that went on that day. The opening got to me a little bit because in the first three minutes the Scottish goalkeeper came out to the edge of the area to cut out a Matthews centre. He dropped the blasted thing on my right foot. So there we were, England v Scotland, first three minutes, 100,000 people there, and an open net on your bad foot!

Fortunately I swung my foot and the ball went in. So that was a brilliant start and enabled me to settle down very quickly. I think Nat Lofthouse scored next, but I got a straight hat-trick in the second half. One in particular stays with me because it was a pass from Stan on the halfway line and a solo effort from then on. I got another pass from Stan and went over Willy Cunningham and headed in... the fourth one I can't remember.

Tommy Docherty was my immediate opponent. He wasn't easy to play against, but I always seemed to have a good match against him. I wouldn't have wanted to play against him too often, though.

If there was any match you always wanted to play in it was the one against Scotland. The atmosphere was tremendous but the spectators mixed with each other... that was football in those days. As for money, we never even thought about it. We were lucky to play in the best era of the lot. The most I ever received for an international was fifty quid.



LIFE DIDN'T get any better for me than it did in 1967. Celtic won the European Cup and I played and scored at Wembley. I didn't know then that it was to be my only appearance there, but now I am glad to have played a role in a victory that has kept every Scotland fan talking for 30 years.

There was something special about going there when England were world champions and inflicting their first defeat on them. The newspapers wrote us off and said we had no chance, but I think that fired up the lads even more.

Celtic had a European Cup semi-final with Dukla Prague on the Wednesday, so I went down the next day to join up with the Scotland squad in Hertfordshire. It was the first time I had ever met guys like Denis Law, but he made me sit down to dinner with him and the camaraderie was great.

We trained at Wembley on the Friday and I remember Eddie McCreadie, of Chelsea, looking up at the scoreboard, pointing to the 0-0 and saying: "If that's the way it finishes, I am going into Stamford Bridge on Monday with my Scotland strip on." I'm sure he kept his promise.

Eddie, like Denis, Jim Baxter and Billy Bremner, had put up with a lot in the 10 months since England had won the World Cup. They'd had it shoved down their throats and wanted a victory badly.

Denis put us in front, and then I made it 2-0. Tommy Gemmell, my Celtic team-mate, played a ball into the box and I just turned and hit it from 14 yards. I ran towards the corner flag in celebration and my dad - who never got to many games - was up in that section to see me do it. After Jim McCalliog had put us 3-1 up we should have gone for more but Jim Baxter and Billy Bremner wanted to take the mickey, so we just knocked the ball about with Baxter juggling the ball while fending off Alan Ball.

I never played at Wembley again, and I never really understood why I only got 10 caps because I played for Celtic until 1980 and scored 264, which was a post-war record.

Five weeks later, Celtic beat Internazionale of Milan to win the European Cup. It was a great season: I had scored in our first game, a 4-1 friendly victory over Manchester United, and scored in the last, a 1-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in Alfredo Di Stefano's testimonial.

Sandwiched in between was Wembley. Life could not get any better.



WE ALL knew that sooner or later, in spite of being world champions, we had to be beaten. But it was particularly galling to lose to the Scots, and they couldn't have been more delighted. It had never been more important to them to beat us at Wembley.

More than anything, I recall that Jim Baxter, a wonderful, elegant player, had a terrific game that day. He wasn't tearing us to pieces, but he did cause us a great deal of trouble.

I can remember that when Denis Law scored he was beside himself with delight. It was one of those passionate games that we both wanted to win, as we always did, but in that match there was actually a lot of good football played.

What people forget now is that back in those days there were no substitutes. Jack Charlton, our centre-half, was injured in the first 15 minutes, and then Ray Wilson, my colleague at full-back, was hurt. Jack had treatment for over 10 minutes then went back to play first on the wing, then at centre- forward. He actually scored with a header when we were two down, but obviously we were having a problem. So it was like giving players away to a very good side.

After all, Baxter was outstanding and so was Denis, who always wanted to score against England. Later he light- heartedly criticised Jim for spending too much time wanting to "tap it about and all that stuff". I think it was the best Scottish team I ever played against. But we knew that it was inevitable that someone would beat us and, unfortunately, it had to be the Scots that did it.

Alf [Ramsey] was pretty unhappy about it. He didn't take defeat very well against anyone, but especially against the Scots. We knew that the injuries had made it difficult and, to be honest, I don't think any of the Scottish players were trying to rub our noses in it. Denis and the rest of them were not like that; they were grown-up people and above all that.

At the end of the game Alf [Ramsey] realised that we had been carrying two players. In spite of that his attitude was that he knew he had to lose sometime, but why did he have to do it against Scotland. But then, we had done well against them in the previous year, so we couldn't really complain.

What I remember most about the games I played against Scotland was the atmosphere. It was always something special. And there were also some special players around at that time.



WHEN YOU look through the matches of that period, I think you'll find it's the most goals an England team have scored in a season. We had put eight past Mexico, five past Northern Ireland and Wales, four past Spain and three against Italy in Rome. Jimmy Greaves thought it was the best England team ever. It was virtually unchanged for a long stretch and the most attacking side England have had.

If you think about the midfield players, we had Johnny Haynes and Bobby Robson; then came Bryan Douglas, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Smith and Greaves... quite a strong six, and I was a fairly attacking player from the back, as was Mick McNeil. Walter Winterbottom decided that was the way forward. We had a 4-2-4, which was a complete change.

Every time we played at Wembley and Jimmy Greaves had the ball I thought he was going to score. Against Scotland he got a hat-trick. Defences just seemed to open up in front of him. Even so, if you had told me before the game that 12 goals would be scored I would never have believed it.

Curiously there wasn't much between the teams at the time. They had some excellent players, Mackay, Law, McNeill, St John, but the thing is you have days when everything goes right for you and wrong for them. Yet at one point it was only 3-2 and it really was a tight match.

When it got to 9-3 there was still quite a bit of time left and the Scots desperately wanted to stop us scoring a 10th. It was a record score; I'll tell you what, no one is going to top that in the next fortnight. You couldn't blame their goalkeeper, Frank Haffey, for all nine but someone always has to take the criticism.

We were presented with the Home International trophy on the pitch, which didn't usually happen. We didn't quite know what to do, so Johnny Haynes walked around with it; then we lifted him on to our shoulders. The Scots' reaction came at Hampden the next season when they won 2-0. I recall turning round at the dressing-room door and saying we had to expect a hard game. We got it.



I PLAYED 77 times for Scotland, but when I think of how myself and Willie Miller were rubbished before this match, you would think I should never even have had one cap.

It was only my ninth or 10th game for my country but the media, particularly TV, were really dismissive of our partnership because we played for Aberdeen. They didn't rate the Scottish domestic game and could not understand how Jock Stein didn't use Anglos like Gordon McQueen, Kenny Burns and Alan Hansen.

Lawrie McMenemy, who was the BBC's top pundit, could not even remember my name and kept calling me "the big red-headed lad". If I had heard that, I would have been raging, but I was motivated enough with all the English papers tipping us to get murdered.

I was marking big Peter Withe, who was the top scorer in the English League that season and helped Aston Villa win the title. He was 6ft 3in and outstanding in the air, but the adrenaline was pumping and we never gave him much sight of the ball all afternoon. Willie and I had a good teacher at Aberdeen in Alex Ferguson, but we also owed a lot that day to Danny McGrain and Frank Gray, two fine full-backs.

The game was decided by a penalty, after Bryan Robson brought down Steve Archibald. "Archie", who had been a team-mate at Aberdeen until moving to Spurs the previous year, got in front of Robbo and made sure he was going to get it.

John Robertson was going to take it and I remember Trevor Francis telling Joe Corrigan which way it was going, but the wee man stayed as cool as a cucumber and scored anyway.

My abiding memory is that famous tunnel, with the noise getting louder with every step. Afterwards was an anti-climax. The Scottish-based lads flew back to Glasgow, my father-in-law drove me back to Aberdeen. I didn't have a beer to celebrate, but I suppose it made me savour the game more. I never thought at the time it would be Scotland's last win at Wembley.