Jim McCalliog on why Billy Gilmour should play and how he helped Scotland beat England at four different levels

The scene is Wembley 54 years ago and out on the pitch the Scottish football oracle approaches three men in dark blue for their final thoughts before the big game.

Jim McCalliog was just 20 when he scored against World Cup holders England at Wembley in 1967 and believes Billy Gilmour should be given the same opportunity. Picture: John Devlin

He shakes hands with Jim Baxter then Denis Law, but when Bob Crampsey comes to Jim McCalliog he’s rebuffed. “Bob had been my history teacher at Holyrood Secondary School,” says our all-time greatest debutant. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays his lessons were the last of the day when I was usually having to rush away to play for Glasgow Schools or a trial of some sort. I had permission from the headmaster but Bob would always get me back. Maybe next time in class he’d go: ‘McCalliog, when was the Battle of Killiecrankie?’ Because I missed so much I wouldn’t know and he’d hit me with 200 or 300 lines.

“Now, I was a kid trying to do my best. Something you’re taught growing up in the Gorbals: ‘Don’t bring shame on your house.’ I was staying on the right path and getting on at football. Yet Bob bloody punished me! So that day I thought to myself ‘You can sod right off’ which, when I think back, was a bit unfortunate because history was my favourite subject at school.”

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Billy Gilmour is ready

Billy Gilmour has just turned 20. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

History is the favourite subject of the Tartan Army. If they don’t know that the Battle of Killiecrankie happened in 1689 then there will be no um-ing and ah-ing over 15 April, 1967. That was the day under the Twin Towers when Scotland beat England to claim the title of unofficial-but-so-what? world champions and McCalliog scored the decisive goal.

Now 74, he and wife Debbie run the Langside B&B in Fenwick, Ayrshire.

Guesthouses can remind me of the Chic Murray gag when the comedian, on a tour of the provinces, spied the miserly thimble of honey on his table and remarked to the proprietor: “I see you keep a bee.” McCalliog is more generous, not least with the football memories, and with Scotland due back at Wembley in the Euros, the chat this week with his customers has all been about the 3-2 game.

He was 20 when he was a shock inclusion in manager Bobby Brown’s team. There’s a feverish debate ongoing over whether another kid, Billy Gilmour, should start for Scotland in the tournament. The view of the hero of ’67 would seem worth hearing.

Jim McCalliog, right, with Scotland manager Bobby Brown, centre, with Ronnie Simpson, left, and ahead of the match against England at Wembley in 1967. Picture: PA Wire

“I’ve seen a bit of Billy, no more than anyone else, and he looks a smashing talent. If I was Steve Clarke, who’s doing a great job by the way, I would play him against England next Friday. Back then I was a young boy who tried not to get above himself but was desperate to progress his career. I was 20 and viewed Wembley as a place to learn. The game was going to be a great experience. My attitude was: ‘This is it, this is your test.’ I was going to find out if I was up to it. I think Billy will have the same thought and I think he’s ready.”

Gorbals upbringing and a visit from the Doc

McCalliog has been writing his memoirs, due in September and titled Wembley Wins, Wembley Woes. In 1966 he opened the scoring in the FA Cup final and his Sheffield Wednesday were leading 2-0 before an Everton comeback. Ten years later at the stadium he played a big part in Southampton’s triumph in the same competition, supplying the pass for Bobby Stokes’ winner. In between times he netted in the first all-English European final for Wolverhampton Wanderers, though Tottenham Hotspur ultimately triumphed in the Uefa Cup, and he was relegated with Manchester United. A rollercoaster career, then, but one thing is certain: he knew how to conquer England and was undefeated against them at four different levels, a record which has surely never been bettered.

At a notable address, Caledonia Road, the eldest of five children born to motor mechanic James and his wife Mary grew up with a singular, burning ambition: “I lived for football. I dreamed of playing for Scotland. That was where my wagon was hitched.”

Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks are left sprawled on the turf as Jim McCalliog scores against world champions England in 1967. Picture: PA Wire

McCalliog won’t hear a bad word said about the Gorbals - “Great community spirit, fantastic people” - and gives thanks to the men who ran school and boys’ club teams in Glasgow as the Fifties turned into the Sixties. “Guys like Denis Cuddihy at Holyrood who trained us in the lunch-break, one o’clock until 25 past, are the real heroes of football. They were the saviours of tykes like me, otherwise we would have probably gone off the rails.”

Aged 14 he remembers his best/worst Christmas when he unwrapped a leather ball, ran down the road to try it out, only for it to burst on the church railings. But the following year he was starring in the annual schoolboys’ international, Scotland beating the Auld Enemy 4-3.

“Excellent in the air … brings striking strength,” noted the match programme of McCalliog but how about this for a fairytale memory of that day in 1962: “The game was at Ibrox and I walked there from the Gorbals with my boots slung over my shoulder. In the team with me were Jimmy O’Rourke and Peter Lorimer, God rest his soul. Walking back home afterwards I was beaming. I grabbed a jam piece and a cup of tea then went to play in the street, re-running my best moves. My mum called me inside: ‘Jim, there’s a gentleman here to see you.’ It was Tommy Docherty. He said: ‘You were great today, son - come to Chelsea.’ I had to say no as I’d given my word to Don Revie.”

Being wooed by Leeds and the chairman’s Rolls-Royce

Jim McCalliog in the middle of the Sheffield Wednesday forward line before the 1966 FA Cup final.

Leeds United had certainly turned on the charm to land him. “I was 14 and my brother Fred was 13 when the club invited us both down for a week’s holiday. We were put up in a posh hotel. Day trips were organised but we were allowed to go to the cinema round the corner on our own. Unfortunately it was showing The Sound of Music - we’d have preferred a western.”

There was a steady supply of sweets and juice to the brothers’ room until the Leeds chairman, Harry Reynolds, phoned to say he was taking them to dinner.

“We were picked up in his Rolls-Royce: ‘What would you like to eat, boys?’ Don’t forget we were 14 and 13 and, giggling away in the back, we didn’t have a clue beyond more popcorn. ‘We don’t mind at all, Mr Reynolds,’ we said. He said: ‘Then we shall go to Scarborough for the best fish and chips in Yorkshire.’”

This excellent adventure - the boys travelled without their parents - had to be kept secret from officialdom in Scotland otherwise McCalliog would have been banned from representing his country as a schoolboy. Presumably it wasn’t one big jolly and there was some football involved? “Yes. I remember Les Cocker [Leeds coach and later England No 2] organising what these days would be called the crossbar challenge. He went first and out of five only managed one. I think my three annoyed him.”

And there was more cloak-and-dagger when McCalliog formally joined up at Elland Road along with Lorimer. “The rule for Scots boys was you couldn’t be signed as apprentice professionals so we had to be given jobs. Peter and I were taken by Don to a print works where he introduced us to the boss. That was it. We never did a stroke at the factory.”

It didn’t work out at Leeds and The Doc got to take McCalliog to Chelsea. A canny fellow even in his teens, our man negotiated a house for his parents at each of his first three clubs. It was as a Blue, then 17, that he played for Scotland Youths against England in a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park. Likely lads alongside included Willie Johnston, Joe Harper and Alex Edwards. “I had a habit of scoring in my first games. For Chelsea in the league and League Cup, Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup and in all the other Scotland debuts - but not that day. I did, though, lay on our goal for Jimmy O’Rourke.”

Billy Gilmour impressed for Scotland in the friendly against Luxembourg and is a contender to start at Euro 2020. Picture: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

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Aged 19 he became Britain’s priciest teenager with a £37,500 move to Hillsborough. He’s immortalised in an Owls song, “Now our friends are all aboard/Jim McCalliog and David Ford … ”, with a melody nicked from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. And the same David Ford was an opponent back at St James’ for England vs Scotland, the Under-23s, just six weeks before the big one at Wembley.

“I scored our first goal and we ended up winning 3-1 [Peter Cormack and Jimmy Smith getting the others]. The England defence was Tommy Smith and Chris Lawler from Liverpool plus Leeds’ Paul Reaney. I gave them a hard time and thankfully Bobby Brown was at the game.”

Beating the world champions on his Scotland debut

The manager picked his team for what would be ’67 immortality the weekend before. Tommy Docherty phoned McCalliog to tell him he was in but he suspected a wind-up. “I was stunned when it was confirmed. It’s no exaggeration to say there were ten to 20 other guys who could have been chosen instead of me.”

He still had a midweek league game to play - against title-chasing Manchester United. “The Scottish press wanted a photo of Denis [Law] and me. I wasn’t worried about playing England on the Saturday - meeting one of my idols made me more nervous. What am I saying? Denis was my No 1. Kicking a ball about at home a few years before I used to pretend I was him. That was my first time in his company. The game finished 2-2 and afterwards he said: ‘I’ll see you in London, Jim, and you’ll be fine.’

“Our hotel for Wembley was Hendon Hall and I pitched up on the Thursday. Jim Baxter walked right over to me: ‘How are you doing, Jim? Well done. Come and meet the boys.’ Wednesday had played his Sunderland a few weeks before and gubbed them 5-0 but I didn’t remind him of that. There was no training that day as the team were still arriving in dribs and drabs but on the Friday we turned up at a local semi-pro pitch which was basically a bog. Horrendous …

“I slept like a log that night. No nerves, I was ready. My pre-match meal was scrambled eggs on toast. I was going to need the blood circulating in my body for the game, not working to digest a big muckle steak, although a few of the boys went for one.

“All respect to England, the world champions, but I wasn’t thinking about them - I was admiring the talent in our team. Scotland were being written off. That was stupidity. And the lads’ patter was brilliant. We were laughing the whole time with Bobby - a lovely, smiley guy - joining in. On the Saturday we piled onto the bus. I remembered the roar of the police escort motorbikes from the cup final the year before and I can still hear it now.

“The closer we got to Wembley, the more Scottish fans there would be on the streets. We’d wave and when they realised it was the team bus they’d run after us. At the stadium, oh my goodness, there was a sea of tartan bunnets and scarves.”

McCalliog says most of the credit for the victory should go to Brown. “Every man and his dog had his opinion about the team, just like now, and some would have been questioning him giving Ronnie Simpson his first cap in goals when he was in the veteran class and putting me up against Bobby Charlton on my debut. It was the manager’s debut, too, so he was putting his head on the block.”

What was his pre-match message? “It was funny. He was about to say something to the group when Jim [Baxter] started bouncing a ball. A few seconds of that and he was ‘Right, come on’ and leading us onto the pitch. We could hear Bobby behind us: ‘Good luck, lads.’

“I had to take the kick-off. And pass the ball to Denis. Wonderful! I was like: ‘Go on, Earth, devour me.’ Could life get any better?” It did. McCalliog remembers two crunching Tommy Gemmell tackles in the opening minutes, which sent a electrical surge through the team, not that the likes of Law needed firing up. “Denis was in the Scotland team who’d lost 9-3 to England [in 1961]. Nobby Stiles [team-mate at Man U] knew he meant business in ’67 because he was wearing shin-pads.”

Backheels and keepie-uppies at Wembley

The Lawman pounced for the opener. There wasn’t any more scoring until the 78th minute and then came four more goals. McCalliog describes his for possibly the millionth time: “Billy Bremner had the ball on the left and I thought he might be going into the corner to run down the clock. But Bobby Lennox appeared and right away it looked a bit more interesting. There was a big hole and I said to myself: ‘I’m getting in there.’ Bobby saw me and passed. Willie Wallace was in a great position and I played a one-two with him. The ball came back perfectly and when I straightened myself I knew Bobby Moore wasn’t going to be able to get to me. I was always pretty cool in the box. Gordon Banks was the best keeper in the world but I reckoned if I hit it low and as hard as I possibly could he’d struggle so I smashed it.”

The final whistle signalled delirium. The victors were mobbed by the bunneted battalion, McCalliog being fortunate to reach the dressing-room without loss of shirt or boots. From the post-match reception at the Savoy Hotel with the beaten English, the Scots moved from nightclub to cabaret show to private party. Cilla Black and Frankie Howerd provided entertainment along the way. Baxter and Bremner got up and sang ‘My Way’. Our duo may not remember that but McCalliog does, having been on Coca-Cola, a teetotal footballer back then, determined to make the absolute best of himself.

Now he must resume B&B duties clearing up the breakfast plates but there’s one more ’67 reminisce he wants to share. “Everyone remembers Jim taking the mickey with a bit of keepy-uppy but do you know how that came about? I backheeled the ball to Denis and he backheeled it to Jim.”

The height of cheek, the ultimate expression of Scottish gallusness - director’s cut.

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He was still an Owl in 1968 and celebrated in a terrace song ripped from a Beatles tune
"Boys, we're the new world champs!" McCalliog with fellow scorers Bobby Lennox and Denis Law at the after-match reception
Jim McCalliog, left, watches on as Eddie McCreadie leaps on top of players surrounding Bobby Lennox after the winger had scored Scotland's second goal in the 3-2 win against England at Wembley. Denis Law (10) and Jim Baxter (6) have their backs to the camera.
"Gordon Banks was the best keeper in the world so I had to smash it."
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