Why Lyndon Dykes decided his international future belonged to Scotland

‘Without this country I wouldn’t be where I am in football’

Lyndon Dykes during a Scotland training session at the Oriam, Edinburgh.
Lyndon Dykes during a Scotland training session at the Oriam, Edinburgh.

We hear much about the inspirational properties of the dreaming spires of Oxford but what about the smoking chimneys of Moniaive? Memories of childhood visits to the Dumfries and Galloway village where his father is from helped convince Lyndon Dykes to answer the call of Scotland.

Other factors came into consideration as well of course, including gratitude. After all, Dykes has made his name as a player in Scotland, firstly at Queen of the South and then, more recently, at Livingston. He joined Queens Park Rangers in a reported £2 million move earlier this month but has made a quick return north of the Border after informing Steve Clarke, pictured below, he had chosen to play for Scotland over Australia, where he was brought up by two Scottish parents. His older sister, Hollie, has already represented Australia at top-level sport. Dykes watched her win four medals in gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games when they were held in Melbourne in 2006.

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He most certainly is Scottish if his indifferent response to whether she might now make the trek to watch him play for Scotland – as soon as restrictions allow – is anything to go by. “If she wants to come and watch me play for Scotland, she can do that, no bother,” he said. It’s only a matter of time until he’s saying “Nae bother”. His son, Tiime, he explained yesterday from the squad camp, was born here so the family unit is firmly rooted in Scotland even if he himself grew up playing rugby league in the sunshine on Australia’s Gold coast. Few Scottish international football careers have had such unconventional origins. Dykes is in line to make his full debut in Friday’s Nations League clash with Israel at a sadly almost deserted Hampden Park.

“I came for a few holidays when I was younger, with my dad,” Dykes said as he recalled formative adventures in his father’s native Moniaive, 20 miles from Dumfries. “It is a small village and I remember it snowing down. My favourite memory was smelling all the chimneys in the town, something that always stuck in my head,” he added.

“I had a Scotland kit when I was young, even though my dad was never a major football person, so I didn’t watch a lot of games when I was little. But I’ve always had friends who are Scottish and English. I played with a lot of people in Australia who had moved there from Scotland. So I was always in that environment where half of them were Celtic fans and the other half were Rangers fans. I always knew what was going on. The Scottish blood is in me.”

Nevertheless, less than a year ago he was still undecided. If anything, it seemed he was veering towards Australia.

A goal and an outstanding 
performance in Livingston’s 2-0 win over Celtic last October meant his Scotland credentials were suddenly on the agenda. Even his then manager, Gary Holt, admitted he had not been aware his striker qualified for Scotland until the morning of that game.

The fact Dykes established his name in Scotland counted for a lot in the end. “Scotland gave me a chance in my career, really,” he explained. “Without this country, I wouldn’t be where I am in football. So that was a major thing in my head.

“From the get-go, I wanted to play for Scotland,” he claimed. There was some interest from Australia, for whom he had previously played only at schoolboy level. “Obviously I spoke with Graham Arnold and Rene Meulensteen (manager and assistant manager) – they were always great with me. But, in the end, speaking with Steve Clarke here, he knows what we spoke about before lockdown, he knows how I reached my decision. I’m just ready to get my head down, work hard and win games.

“A lot of people would have said that Australia was the easy route. But, with the squad that they have here in Scotland and the boys coming through as well, it’s only a matter of time before we get back to where we should be. My job is to do my best and push Scotland on further.”

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As well as his family, someone else helped pull on his heartstrings when it came to plumping for Scotland over Australia, who, like the Scots, are not overly blessed with options up front. James McFadden already occupies an enduring place in the heart of the Tartan Army but, if Dykes turns out to be the Scotland No 9 a nation has been crying out for, there will be yet another reason to revere him. They played together at Queen of the South, when McFadden was in the twilight of a career that included a famous winning goal for Scotland against France in Paris 13 years ago next month.

“That’s someone I look at and think ‘I want to be like him’,” said Dykes. “He was great for Scotland. He came in with Gary Naysmith and he was a great lad. I got on with him straight away and he gave me great advice.

“He taught me a lot of things on the pitch and off the pitch. I speak to him for advice in my career as well, I’ve rang him up loads of times.

“He’s always had good words to say to me and has always been there for me. He’s always been top class to me.”

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