Scotland v Wales classics: Scots repeat 3-2 trick but nauseating night for Lisbon Lion Craig
ANDREW SMITH looks back on a classic Scotland match against Wales, a bittersweet victory for one of the Scottish defenders.
Scotland 3, Wales 2
22 November, 1967
It wasn’t just on a hallowed afternoon at Wembley that Scotland produced a 3-2 win in 1967. In November of that year, Bobby Brown’s side repeated the trick in the next Home International Championships. These back-to-back tournaments, for the only time in history, doubled up as qualification games for the European Championships. Yet, the win over Wales, in front of 57,472 at Hampden, isn’t an encounter recalled with much relish, even by a man for whom it provided a unique memory.
Six months after he had helped Celtic win the European Cup in the Portuguese capital, Jim Craig was one of two players in home colours who made their Scotland debuts on a foggy night in Glasgow’s southside. Aberdeen goalkeeper Bobby Clark, controversially selected ahead of Celtic defender Craig’s better performing but “too old” fellow Lisbon Lion Ronnie Simpson, was the other.
Neither man was overly impressive, as a double from late pick Alan Gilzean allowed Scotland to secure the victory that kept alive their hopes of going forward to the four-team European Championship finals of 1968. Hopes that had been severely dented by an abysmal defeat away to Northern Ireland weeks earlier and were predictably dashed when the Scots, needing the win, could only draw with England on their own patch the following February.
Craig wasn’t selected for that international, or indeed any other. He regrets now turning out against Wales, because there was good reason why he wasn’t at his best for his solitary cap... and it wasn’t the” nerves” that Scotsman chief sportswriter John Rafferty said were “astonishing” to see the European Cup winner exhibiting.
“I was feeling absolutely bloody awful from the first minute to the last minute, and nerves had nothing to do with it,” the former Celtic full-back explained. He was then lumbering under the affects of a mysterious virus he had picked up in Celtic’s ill-fated trip to South America for the World Club Championships, which ended in the fever of the fisticuffs-farce of a play-off loss to Argentina’s Racing Club in the “neutral” location of Montevideo in Uruguay.
“I was in two minds whether to play or not, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have,” said Craig, “but I knew the chance wasn’t an everyday occurrence and that it might not play well for you if it seemed you had declined. I worried about it leading up to the game and asked the boss [Jock Stein] and my dad for advice. They both said, ‘it’s up to you’.
“That was non-advice really, because of course it was up to me. I never mentioned it to the Scotland manager but spoke to Bob Rooney [the Celtic trainer] and he encouraged me that I’d be fine if I stayed strong and tried to forget it, but I wasn’t fine. I was sick, and I have since said to my sons, who all played rugby, never to play if they weren’t feeling right because you can’t then do yourself justice, which does you more harm in the long run. Certainly, I wasn’t nervous. If you look at my record, the bigger the occasion, the better I played.”
Craig was entitled to feel a little queasy at how the Hampden crowd reacted to Scotland falling 2-1 behind early in the second half. Rafferty’s report talks of “disturbing chants” of “Rangers, Rangers” emanating from the Mount Florida slopes, along with cries for Willie Henderson, as Celtic’s winger Jimmy Johnstone started in role the Rangers man would normally occupy with Ibrox team-mate Willie Johnston on the other flank.
“It seemed that allegiances were being mixed up,” Rafferty wrote. “The fact was at that time the majority of Scotland fans were Rangers supporters; it is just how it was,” Craig said. “And wee Jimmy [Johnstone] in particular came in for a rough time. At Celtic then we were all proud Scots, though, and we wanted to do our best for our country.”
It was Scotland’s solitary English-based player who came through for his country on the night. Tottenham Hotspur forward Gilzean, who had played in the London club’s FA Cup win that year, was only drafted in after Bobby Murdoch called off. He justified his selection with an 16th minute opener that came from him hanging in the air to meet a Bobby Lennox cross.
Three minutes later Ron Davies equalised for Wales, and with the jinking trio of Johnstone, Johnston and Lennox failing to make much headway against an imposing backline, the visitors grew in confidence. They capitalised on a good period to take the lead through Alan Durban ten minutes after the break, but that seemed to jolt Scotland to life.
On 65 minutes, Gilzean produced another towering header from a Lennox cross to make it 2-2 before centre-back Ronnie McKinnon claimed his only Scotland goal with a spectacular volley seven minutes from time. Scotland then survived a scare when, according to Rafferty, Clark “foozled” the ball and it ended up in the net, only for an offside flag to intervene,
“What I remember about the evening is that we took our chances and Wales didn’t,” recalled Craig. “So often that’s what deciding football matches comes down to.”
When it comes down to his vivid memories of the build-up to his one international, it is the identity of Craig’s room-mate that causes him to break in to a mischievous chuckle. “I was in with Jim Baxter, so I blame him for me not feeling any better over the week away.”
Scotland: Clark, Craig, McCreadie, Greig, McKinnon, Baxter, Johnstone, Bremner, Gilzean, Johnston, Lennox.
Wales: Sprake, Rodriguez, Green, Hennessey, James, Hole, Rees, Ronald Wyn Davies, Ronald Tudor Davies, Durban, Jones
Referee: J Finney (Eng).
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