4 of the best Scotland debuts to rival Stuart Armstrong

How fast fortunes can change in football '“ especially when Scotland are involved.
Stuart Armstrong was widely praised for his performance against Slovenia on Sunday. Picture: Michael GillenStuart Armstrong was widely praised for his performance against Slovenia on Sunday. Picture: Michael Gillen
Stuart Armstrong was widely praised for his performance against Slovenia on Sunday. Picture: Michael Gillen

Gordon Strachan’s men were mere minutes away from their World Cup dream being over, which would almost certainly have led to Strachan himself looking for another job this week.

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With a move started by universally acknowledged man-of-the-match Stuart Armstrong, Chris Martin’s late goal gave the side a 1-0 win over Slovenia and kept their slim hopes of reaching Russia next year.

The Celtic midfielder has been in imperious form this season, finally gaining a settled place in Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Armstrong capped his best season to date with a debut performance that had his manager raving and fans excited about what he could continue to bring to the national side.

Gordon Strachan hailed Armstrong’s performance as the best debut he’d ever witnessed – but how does that stack up to history?

We take a look at some of the best of the first-timers.

Denis Law

Denis Law, one of a tiny number of players affectionately remembered by fans of both Man City and Man United, is undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers Scotland has ever produced.

Scoring well over 200 goals for the Old Trafford side, Law also remains Scotland’s joint all-time goalscorer, with 30 goals for the national side.

The first of those did indeed come on his debut, Law firing Scotland’s second goal in a 3-0 victory over Wales at Ninian Park in Cardiff.

Then in relatively inauspicious form for lowly Huddersfield, the match which saw the teenage Law first work alongside Matt Busby, later his manager during his glory years at Man United.

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The goal was a taste of things to come for Law, who also netted nearly ten years later in the famous ‘world-beaters’ victory over then World Cup holders England in 1967.

As debuts go, scoring the first goal of a future 30 certainly takes some beating in retrospect.

Jim McCalliog

Speaking of that game at Wembley, one of the most famous games of international football ever, there was one debut that has long stuck in the memory.

The midfielder, while at Sheffield Wednesday, struck the crucial winning goal in the 3-2 win against England which led to Scotland declaring themselves ‘unofficial World Champions’.

Contacted this week in the wake of the fulsome praise for Stuart Armstrong, modest McCalliog said he was just pleased for Scotland to get the win.

McCalliog, who now runs a B&B in Ayrshire with his wife, played just four more times for his country in a four year spell.

Despite his heroics at Wembley, and his performance still being praised by Wembley contemporaries even now, Mcalliog never added to his tally of international goals.

Charlie Nicholas

Like so many of his fellow former footballers, ‘Champagne’ Charlie Nicholas has launched a career as a pundit.

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Unfortunately, his less-than-impressive patter when sparring with Jeff Stelling and others on Soccer Saturday has somewhat clouded an impressive sporting legacy.

That was never more evident than when the attacker, who had a distinctly un-Scottish touch of finesse about him, made his debut for the national side.

Just before he left Celtic in his first spell and headed to Arsenal, Nicholas was handed his first cap by Jock Stein in a European Championships qualifier against Switzerland at Hampden.

Scotland mounted a spirited comeback from being two goals down, and the equaliser showed the impact Nicholas would have from his first game.

Grainy footage of the goal scored by Nicholas can still be viewed on Youtube as Nicholas takes one touch on his right before lifting an exquisite strike over the Swiss goalkeeper.

Nicholas has been complimentary about Armstrong at various junctions this season, tipping the Celtic midfielder for first goalscorer on Sunday, and calling him the best player in Scotland.

Henry Morris

As debuts go, none have been more successful, nor so bizarre, as that of Henry Morris, a legend of East Fife in the postwar era.

Morris scored an extraordinary 154 goals in 177 games for the Fifers, his competitive record averaging 0.87 goals a game.

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Noticed by Scotland, Morris was given the honour of playing in what is recorded as Scotland’s first ever World Cup qualifier in 1949, an 8-2 thrashing of Northern Ireland.

Morris hit a hat-trick in that game, and despite his heroics, and his incredible record in Methil, was never selected for his country again.

Morris told the BBC in a 1990 interview: “I was naturally disappointed not getting another game, but there was nothing much I could do about it, it was out of my hands.

“The amount of people that’s asked me why I didn’t get another game - I wish I had a tenner for every one!”

Beat that Stuart Armstrong!