DCSIMG

The Scot who beat England at World Cup - with the USA

THE greatest show on earth has kicked-off without us again and the sad truth is that aside from those supporters who have a penchant for men in kilts, Scotland's absence from this World Cup is unlikely to be missed.

What, precisely, are our contributions to the greatest moments in the history of the World Cup? Most Scots would put forward Archie Gemmell's moment of individual brilliance against the Dutch in 1978 as a shining example. David Narey's "toe-poke" (Jimmy Hill) against Brazil in 1982 and Gordon Strachan's dalliance with the advertising hoardings in 1986 are also fondly remembered.

But while these nuggets are intrinsic to our own World Cup lore, they are unlikely to feature in debates on the tournament's most memorable moments in bars from Turin to Timbuktu.

For a truly global impact by a Scot, we must cast our net further than the confines of the Scottish national side.

Four years before Andy Beattie led the Scots to a first ever World Cup appearance, in Switzerland, Greenock-born Eddie McIlvenny had already played a major role in what still must rate as the biggest shock in the history of the finals when he captained a USA side to a 1-0 win over a vintage England team containing such talents as Tom Finney, Billy Wright, Alf Ramsey and Wilf Mannion.

The match, played in Belo Horizonte's Independencia Stadium on 29 June 1950, is still painfully regarded by English football commentators as their nation's worst-ever defeat.

Appropriate then, that a Scot should be at the heart of it. McIlvenny was actually one of three members of the American side that day who were not US citizens. As a further kick in the ribs to English historians, the scorer of the winning goal that day, Haitian-Belgian striker Joe Gaetjens, was one of the others.

But regulations on who was eligible to play for national sides were a lot looser in those days, and so McIlvenny, who had grown up earning his living in the shipyards on the Clyde, was fast-tracked into the USA team having only emigrated across the Atlantic a year previously.

Born in 1924, McIlvenny was a keen part-time footballer until he was signed by Wrexham manager Tom Williams and became full-time in 1947. The move, however, did not work out well for the midfielder and, after just eight appearances, he was released. An unsuccessful trial with Oldham Athletic followed before he moved to the US.

His sister was already living in the US and McIlvenny settled quickly, making a name for himself with the Philadelphia Nationals in the American Soccer League. His form for Philadelphia was well-timed, with the US national team looking to put a squad together for the upcoming World Cup finals in Brazil.

McIlvenny earned a call-up and made his debut in the USA's opening game of the tournament, a 3-1 defeat against Spain. Next up for McIlvenny and his new "compatriots" – England.

But McIlvenny wasn't the only Scot involved with USA. The team was managed by Edinburgh man, Bill Jeffrey, who had moved to the US at a young age. Knowing the unique passion engendered in Scots where England are the opponents, Jeffrey took the shrewd decision to name McIlvenny as his captain for the match against a side the Brazilian press were hailing as the "kings of football". The decision proved a wise one as McIlvenny inspired a heroic defensive effort from the under-siege Americans. It was from a McIlvenny throw-in that Walter Bahr unleashed the shot which was deflected in by Gaetjens.

A defeat against Chile in their last game of the finals was to be McIlvenny's last involvement with the US side, but great things threatened to unfold for the Scot when, shortly after returning to Britain, the press dubbing him the "Yank from the Tail o' the Bank", he was snapped up by Manchester United manager Matt Busby. Sadly for McIlvenny his dream move never really got off the ground and he ended up playing just twice for United's first team.

McIlvenny saw out his career in the lower leagues and began a coaching career with Waterford United in Ireland. He later lived and coached in Sussex before passing away in 1989.

His achievement as USA captain is commemorated in the Scottish Football Museum and, out of all the famous players decorating the walls at Hampden, who can say they made a bigger splash at a World Cup finals?

 
 
 

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