Scottish football’s 10 greatest rebels

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1 Bobby Flavell

Not many players – make that no one else – have scored goals for Dundee in two winning cup finals. Dundee became the first side to win back-to-back League Cups in 1951 and 1952, Flavell scoring in both.

Duncan Ferguson, nicknamed Duncan Disorderly, with his shirt ripped during an Everton-Spurs match in 1997. Picture: Gary M Prior/Allsport/Getty Images

Duncan Ferguson, nicknamed Duncan Disorderly, with his shirt ripped during an Everton-Spurs match in 1997. Picture: Gary M Prior/Allsport/Getty Images

But while this marks him out as special, it doesn’t necessarily endorse his candidacy as a rebel. Flavell scored over a goal a game for first club Airdrie, which helped convince Hearts to pay £10,000 for his services.

He never really settled at Tynecastle. But it’s where he landed next that casts him as someone prepared to be a bit different: Colombia, where a breakaway professional league, unrecognised by FIFA, was established in 1949.

While Flavell served a brief ban on his return to Britain, he did not suffer for his decision to join Millianoros. He had no regrets. “I earned fabulous money and my wife Pearl and I had a beautiful flat in Bogota,” he once recalled. “As an added bonus I also got to play every week with Alfredo di Stefano.”

2 Duncan Ferguson

His nickname is even derived from an actual criminal offence: Duncan Disorderly. He was the first footballer to be jailed for an on-field misdemeanour, spending 44 days in Glasgow’s Barlinnie after being convicted for assault while at Rangers following a headbutt on Raith Rovers’ Jock McStay.

And yet his real rebel credentials were amassed when he became an international refusenik. Nowadays it is more common for players to ask not to be considered for Scotland. But Ferguson’s principled stance created headlines. It was not without its contradictions, however. Ferguson made it known he could not play for an association that had sought to ensure he served a 12-game ban after serving his jail sentence. But he did turn out for Scotland following his release, only stepping away following his seventh cap against Estonia in 1997.

3 Rose Reilly

Unlike Duncan Ferguson, the termination of Reilly’s Scotland career was not at her own request. She was banned from playing after pursuing a professional career elsewhere. “It was their loss,” she told Nutmeg magazine last year. “I’d moved on.”

She certainly had. She signed for AC Milan after a spell at Stade de Rheims in France and won eight Italian league titles while regularly playing in front of crowds of 20,000. She became an adopted Italian and starred – and scored – for Italy when they lifted the women’s World Cup in Chile in 1983.

She’d come a long way from playing with boys’ teams in Ayrshire, when she first displayed the determination that ensured the small-minded attitudes she encountered then in Scotland would not hamper her dreams. Reilly was eventually inducted into both the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

4Vic Kasule

A footballer drinking alcohol to excess is not sufficient for rebel status, even in these more health conscious times. Back when Vic Kasule played it was more common of course. But he took over-indulgence to new levels and created potentially dangerous situations for himself, and others – including when he took Shrewsbury Town team-mate and fellow Scot John McGinlay’s car without his consent and overturned it.

His normal carry-out was, he claimed, 24 cans of Red Stripe and a bottle of brandy. Nevertheless, Kasule was bestowed with the nickname “Vodka Vic”. He was already creating a stir as one of very few black players to have made the breakthrough in senior Scottish football after he signed for Albion Rovers in 1982. He then became Meadowbank Thistle’s record signing. But football tended to be a sideline to full-time carousing.

“It was a nice family club and we did our best to ruin it,” he said of his time at Shrewsbury Town with fellow Scottish hell-raisers Alan Irvine and Stevie Pittman. Irvine later queried this depiction. More because of the association with Kasule rather than the suggestion he was a drunkard.

5 Mo Johnston

There have been few more insurrectionary single acts in Scottish football than agreeing to come back to sign for Celtic before joining rivals Rangers instead.

Mo Jo will forever deserve a place in any such list after managing to upset Celtic and Rangers fans alike in 1989. Celtic supporters sought to erase him from the memory to the extent that a banner celebrating the 30th anniversary of Celtic’s 1986 league title named only ten Celtic players plus Albert Kidd, who scored twice for Dundee v Hearts that afternoon to deliver the title to the east end of Glasgow.

Johnston blessed himself after being sent off for Celtic in the 1986-87 League Cup final against Rangers. So if the Ibrox club were really going to make their first high profile Roman Catholic signing, something Graeme Souness planned from the moment he became Ibrox manager in 1986, Johnston was the last one many would have chosen, hence tales emerging of season tickets being flung into fires. Johnston bravely managed to win over the majority, scoring 31 goals in 76 appearances – including a last-minute winner in an Old Firm derby.

6 Willie Johnston

The ultimate bad boy of Scottish football. Records show he was red-carded 20 times, though he – almost proudly – claims it was 22.

His own autobiography’s title Sent Off At Gunpoint recalls one such early bath, v Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1977 where he was warned, amid the strong-arm tactics of the military junta, not to return the following summer. He did, with fateful consequences. Even without the controversy for which he is most well-known, being sent home from the World Cup in 1978 for taking a banned drug to help soothe his hayfever, his football career seemed designed to give the authorities a headache. He was once banned for ten weeks by the SFA after a punch-up with Partick Thistle’s Alex Forsyth while he also stamped on the throat of John McMaster while playing for Rangers against Aberdeen. He still refuses to have anything to do with the SFA, who he finds it hard to forgive for their heavy-handed response to his drug test failure. This included packing him on to a plane home to face the music alone.

7 Jim Baxter

Described by biographer Ken Gallacher as a “lifelong rebel and a constant thorn in the side of the Scottish football establishment”, Baxter would take grave offence were he not listed among this awkward squad of characters.

He was an individualist from the word go, striking out for better pay at Rangers while turning a deaf ear to the request from rather more disciplined team-mate Harry Davis to be a team player. By this Davis meant cutting out nights out before a game. Baxter never did anything by half. He gave up the chance to really hurt England in 1967 when Scotland strolled to victory against the world champions, preferring to toy with them by doing keepie-ups on the Wembley pitch. Over-indulgence claimed Baxter in the end. He died aged 61 in 2001 after two liver transplants.

8 Chic Charnley

A latter day Willie Johnston, the number of his red cards, 17, equals the number of his clubs.

He enjoyed four spells at Partick Thistle, a couple at St Mirren. He seemed to be forever on the move, attracting trouble wherever he went. One of those red cards was for tangling with his own teammate Robbie Raeside while at Dundee.

Raeside is now a policeman, Charnley, meanwhile, drives a taxi in Glasgow, and can recount such tales as the time he was summoned to guest for boyhood favourites Celtic in Mark Hughes’ testimonial against Manchester United in 1994. He was in the pub when he heard the news and travelled down with friends on the day of the game, changing into a suit in the car. He was named man of the match.

9 Jackie McNamara Snr

Billy McNeill called him a “wee commie bastard”, Kenny Dalglish dubbed him “Trotsky”. “While the rest of them were playing cards, I’d be reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists,” Jackie McNamara Senior once recalled of his Celtic days, when he picked up the nickname Red Jackie.

It had emerged that he sold Soviet Weekly when he was a kid, not that he tried to hide political convictions inherited from his father, who had been one of the Clyde’s youngest shipyard shop stewards.

After a Drybrough Cup win over Rangers, Jimmy Johnstone told McNamara it was a grand a man for the bonus. But because he was younger, McNamara only got £250.

“Wages were wages but I reckoned bonuses should be the same for everyone. Unfortunately Billy and Jock [Stein] didn’t see it that way!” His concern for the welfare of his fellow man did not always stretch to referees – he once threw his jersey at one after being sent off for Hibs, where he later became a teammate of George Best.

10 Craig Levein

Who gets sent off in a friendly for punching a teammate? Well, Craig Levein does. It’s perhaps difficult to cast Levein in the role of anti-authority figure when seeing the bespectacled figure in his dad jersey and puffer jacket on the sidelines with Hearts. But Levein has never kowtowed to anyone.

This includes Graeme Hogg, who once mightily pissed him off while they were playing for Hearts in a friendly against Raith Rovers in August 1994. A dazed Hogg was stretchered off with a broken nose.

More recently, Levein’s post-match outburst in 2008 against referee Mike McCurry while manager of Dundee United following a defeat at Rangers remains a masterpiece of its kind: “We were as well not turning up today – we could not have won today. Let’s not bother about Dundee United, eh? It’s all about Rangers.”

He’s recently honed his act back at Hearts where he’s perfected the art of what’s become known as sh*thousery.


Who is Scottish football’s greatest rebel? is a Book Week Scotland 2018 event on Monday night in association with Nutmeg magazine at the Storytelling Centre on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, kick-off 7.30pm.

A panel including former Scotland international Pat Nevin, Scotsman sportswriter Alan Pattullo, author Chris McQueer, and former Scotland on Sunday sports editor Ginny Clark will pitch their choice for Scottish football’s ultimate football rebel title. Tickets can be bought online at the Scottish Story Telling Centre.