Alan Cousin: First Scot to score in the San Siro

A SCOT scoring in the San Siro is a rare event, sadly. Considering Celtic’s firepower is not completely reliant on Scottish players, this needn’t necessarily count as an ominous bullet of information ahead of their assignment tomorrow, when they must score at least one goal to progress to the Europa League last 16.

Alan Cousin became the first Scot to score at the San Siro. Picture: Contributed

However, the detail does help underline why the stadium retains its intimidating quality as well as undoubted grandeur. Scottish clubs have visited the San Siro, or Stadio Giussppe Meazza, as it has officially been known since 1980, on 14 occasions for competitive European games. They have scored just four goals – two against AC Milan, one a-piece against Internazionale and Feyenoord.

When it comes to Scots scoring for Scottish clubs in the stadium, Alan Cousin, Jim Forrest and Tommy Gemmell belong in an elite club of three. Slovakian defender Stanislav Varga, who scored 11 years ago when Celtic lost 3-1 to AC Milan in a Champions League group match, is the other. Of course, Joe Jordan scored there for AC Milan when he played for the club for a spell in the early 1980s.

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Gemmell’s strike, to put Celtic in front against Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup final, could have been one of the most momentous Scottish goals of all-time, to compare with Steve Chalmers’ winner for the same side in Lisbon three years earlier.

However, Celtic quickly relinquished the lead to lose 2-1. Forrest, meanwhile, struck at the San Siro for Rangers in a 3-1 defeat in the European Cup. Even though he also scored in the return leg, he could not stop the Ibrox side slipping to a 3-2 aggregate defeat.

It was Cousin who, when playing for Dundee against AC Milan in the first leg of their European Cup semi-final in 1963, distinguished himself by becoming the first Scot to score in the stadium. Even more impressively he was a part-time player at the time, as he remained throughout his career. Cousin, who studied Latin and Greek at the University of St Andrews, divided his time playing for Bob Shankly’s side with teaching classics at Alloa Academy.

Cousin had to count on the goodwill of the local authority to allow him to travel in midweek to Italy to score a goal that briefly fired Dundee’s hopes of becoming the first British side to reach the European Cup final. “I was very fortunate to be allowed time off as I was teaching Classics full-time,” says Cousin, whose sons Martin and Michael have also similarly high-minded careers – the former is a professional pianist, while the latter is a professor of stem biology at the University of Edinburgh.

“I got permission from the local authority. In fact, that was written into my teaching contract – the thing was the director of education’s brother played for Queen of the South,” continues Cousin. “And therefore he was, I wouldn’t say totally on my side, but he was fairly kind to me, better than he might have been.”

Now 76, and still living in Clackmannanshire, Cousin has backed Celtic’s bid to earn the victory they will probably need after drawing 3-3 with Inter last week. Cousin will be watching on television, just as his pupils – or at least those whose parents were prepared to allow them to stay up – were watching when he headed in Dundee’s equaliser after shaking off his celebrated Italian marker, Cesare Maldini. “I daresay they might have been quite impressed when I walked back into the classroom,” says Cousin, yesterday. His goal, midway through the first half, brought Dundee back into the tie after they conceded a goal after just three minutes, in front of nearly 80,000 fans. “I remember Andy P [Penman] crossed the ball and I think I was unmarked for some reason – and it’s not like the Italians to leave anyone unmarked,” he says. “However, it came over and I managed to head it in all right.”

A ruinous second half, during which Dundee conceded four more, meant that when Cousin and his team-mates returned, they had to score at least four times without reply to force a play-off (the away goal rule was introduced two years later). There were mitigating factors for the second-half collapse, including the absence of their skipper and defensive lynch-pin Bobby Cox, who was ruled out after being injured in the previous match against Motherwell.

There was also the small matter of the platoon of Italian photographers behind Dundee goalkeeper Bert Slater’s goal using flash bulbs which illuminated the night sky. Understandably, this served to infuriate the visiting players. “They were a good side, no doubt,” says Cousin. “But the flash photography did not help, especially as they seemed to cotton on to the fact that crosses into the goalmouth with the help of the photographers was the way to go. I remember the plea being made: ‘it can’t go on like this, not with all the flash photography. It’s blinding people!’”

However, manager Shankly’s complaints fell on deaf ears. All Milan’s goals were sourced from crosses into the box. Although the Spanish referee, Vicente Caballero, was later suspended for allegedly allowing himself to be influenced by the Italian club, Dundee’s hopes could not be salvaged in the return leg just seven days later at Dens, where they won 1-0 thanks to their other Alan, Gilzean.

The tie was lost in the San Siro, which, according to Cousin, was not as intimidating as Cologne’s ground, where Dundee were beaten 4-0 in the preliminary round (an 8-1 first-leg victory meant this did not prove damaging to their ambitions). “The German fans were standing all around the pitch,” says Cousin. “One of them tripped Gordon [Smith] once when he was running down the wing!”

Cousin, a modest gentleman, was often in the right place at the right time, including when he scored his first goal for Dundee in 5-1 friendly win over Manchester United in 1956. “I couldn’t miss – I don’t think I was anymore than three yards away from the goal-line,” he says.

There was something else special about that occasion – Bobby Charlton made his non-competitive debut for United. But not even this great player can boast of scoring in the San Siro; nor, of course, can anyone ever wrestle away Alan Cousin’s title of the first Scot to make his mark there.