Saturday, 1 May 2010

Great Scot

The other week saw the conclusion of a series of programmes on STV that sought to end countless arguments in homes, pubs and clubs throughout the land - who are the players who would make up Scotland’s greatest national team? Viewers were asked to vote on-line each week to select players from nominations drawn up from a panel of experts who included the now ex SFA Chief Executive Gordon Smith, Kilmarnock manager Jimmy Calderwood and commentator extraordinaire Archie ‘there’s a good looking ball’ Macpherson. No, I don’t know who chose the panel either but given the nominations they came up with for each position in the team, it was scarcely surprising that seven of Scotland’s ‘greatest team’ had connections with either Celtic or Rangers…

I chose not to vote, as I’m not sure what purpose there is in this particular exercise but I certainly didn’t argue with the inclusion of Jimmy Johnstone. ‘Jinky’ played a pivotal role in the greatest ever Celtic team and I remember as a child watching the great winger destroy Hearts at Tynecastle in the 1970s. I should add that Hearts weren’t the only team to succumb to the wee man’s outrageous skill although one can argue that Johnstone didn’t always replicate his form in the dark blue shirt of Scotland. The one notable exception was against England at Hampden in 1974. This was a couple of days after the infamous Largs incident when Jinky climbed aboard a rowing boat on the way back to the Scotland team hotel, having consumed one or two not so wee drams. He found himself cast adrift and had to get the coast guard to rescue him in the wee small hours. Nowadays he would have been immediately sent home and banished from the Scotland setup for life. In 1974 things were somewhat different to the extent the wee man was given a rollicking by Scotland manager Willie Ormond but played against England at Hampden - where he was instrumental in Scotland’s 2-0 victory. I say instrumental - he tore England apart.

Scotland’s ‘greatest team’ had as its goalkeeper Andy Goram. Former Hearts custodian Craig Gordon was among the nominees but the fact Goram played for Rangers (and to a lesser extent Hibernian) probably got him in. I can’t really argue with that either. One of the finest displays I’ve seen from a goalkeeper in my forty-two years following Hearts came at Tynecastle. Not, I have to say, from a Hearts keeper despite the fact that goalies par excellence such as Jim Cruickshank and Craig Gordon have played on the hallowed Tynecastle turf. Back in March 1991 Hibernian visited Tynecastle and, somewhat inevitably, were beaten by Edinburgh’s finest 3-1. However, the winning margin could and would have been much greater had it not been for the performance of Andy Goram in between the sticks for the Hibees. He was just magnificent that day - so much so that at the final whistle the celebrating Hearts fans standing in the old shed showed their appreciation to the man who would become known as The Goalie. I’m sure Goram thought the Hearts support were taking the Michael but Jambos are a discerning lot and know genuine talent when they see it.

STV decided, in their infinite wisdom, to choose Scotland’s ‘greatest team’ from 1967 onwards. This had to explain why there was no place in the team for Hearts legends Dave Mackay and Alec Young. Mackay, in particular, would have been a certainty to make any ‘greatest team’ and the fact the great man continued playing until 1971 - albeit this was the twilight of his career - suggests to me he should have at least been nominated. Perhaps Jimmy Calderwood et al might like to explain that one…

Despite this, it was an enjoyable series and the clips of great players and games from years gone by rekindled some special memories. And Sandy Jardine still looks fit enough to play today!

It might be something for the Hearts commercial team to consider. While there is the Hearts Hall of Fame, just who would make the final eleven of Hearts Greatest Team? The debate would go on and on. Jim Cruickshank - now there was a goalkeeper…!

1 comment:

  1. Three Rangers men, a Glasgow TV company and you dare to question the result?