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When is a door not a door? When it is ajar of course. But when is a cap not a cap? It appears that record books have been showing incorrect information for nearly sixty years. Statistical publications don't count 'wartime' internationals as full international appearances and the matches Scotland played in 1945-46 have hitherto come into the category of 'unofficial' with no caps counted for appearances in such games.

But it seems that two of those games should be counted after all.

Andy Mitchell, the SFA's Head of Communications, contacted scottishleague.net to tell us: 'In a recent SFAQ you wrote that the two Scotland internationals in 1946 against Belgium and Switzerland were 'unofficial'. This is not the case. Unlike the British Championship that year, where the four countries agreed not to make the matches part of the official series, both these friendlies were considered as full internationals. There is nothing in the SFA minute books that says otherwise, and I have also checked with the Belgian and Swiss FAs that they consider these games as full internationals. That is why they are listed on the SFA website, and the players who took part should include these games in their caps totals.'

There's no disputing either the veracity or the authority of that statement and indeed it should be welcomed. Many players of that generation lost their best years to the war and anything which boosts their standing in the historical record is all to the good.

But what the SFA statement also does is to pose a whole series of questions about what is and what isn't a full international. Why, for instance, should the matches against the Belgians and the Swiss be full internationals but not the game between them - the 1-0 win in 1946 against England? If the Belgian and Swiss FAs consider these two games full internationals, then what about the several matches against the Scots recognised as official by the likes of Canada and the USA, but not by Scotland? Should these be retrospectively upgraded?

What about England? If they take the same line as the SFA and count their games against the Swiss, Belgians (and also the French) in 1945-46 as official then the great Billy Wright, currently fourth in England's all-time caps list with 105, would move to joint second alongside Bobby Moore on 108.

Why should wartime games be considered unofficial when every player who took part in the match against a Hong Kong select in 2002 was given a cap?

Jerry Dawson, Bill Shankly & Tommy Walker played for Scotland, Joe Mercer, Wilf Mannion and Tommy Lawton for England but this match doesn't count - unlike the game against the Hong Kong Select

Then there's the Ibrox disaster of 1902. This match between Scotland and England was a full international when it was played. But it was subsequently downgraded to unofficial status.

Perhaps most confusingly of all, what about the very first international ever played? In 1872 Scotland drew 0-0 with England at the West of Scotland's cricket ground at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow. Proudly we claim that occasion as the birth of international football. It takes pride of place at the SFA's Museum. It's in all the record books. But hold on a minute. Says who? This match took place BEFORE the foundation of the SFA. There was no governing body in Scotland at that time. This game is only the first international because WE SAY SO and, to date; no one has thought to contradict us.

What about the Scotland v England match at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in March 1871? Yes, that was a rugby game but the difference in the two codes was nowhere near as distinct then as now. To many there was no difference at all. The Scotsman reported the Raeburn Place match as 'Football- The International Match. The first match worthy of the above name…' The paper reckoned that a match under Association rules wouldn't be fair as 'all the principal clubs in Scotland play according to Rugby rules.' Whatever rules were in place it didn't deter one of the England players - Reginald Halsey Birkett - from playing for England against Scotland in both codes nor from winning the FA Cup with Clapham Rovers.

You can read The Scotsman's account of the twenty-a-side game here

Claiming that game as the world's first international is made even more appealing as it resulted in a Scottish victory. But there were other 'unofficial' games a year earlier, in London, between English sides and 'Scottish' teams comprised of 'expats' and representatives of the landed gentry who were accepted as 'Scots' on the grounds that they owned half the country.

And it gets worse/better. Delving back into history, Andy Mitchell provides a few gems of confusion. In 1929, in their first continental trip, Scotland played two games in Norway against regional selects. The Scots count one of those as a full international while the Norwegians count neither. The tour continued in Germany and the match played there is counted by both countries as bona fide. But the next match, in the Netherlands, is counted only by Scotland but not by the Dutch. Why? Because the Dutch were an amateur team and wouldn't count a match against professionals as official. Yet two years later Denmark - also amateur- claim to have played a full international against Scotland, even though this was against a side sent by the Scottish Amateur FA!

But the piece de resistance concerns a match the status of which is not in doubt. In a 1948 friendly against France both Billy Campbell of Morton and Charlie Cox of Hearts have been credited with appearances they never made. In fact it was Sammy Cox of Rangers who played that day. He made his debut as a late replacement for Campbell. Eddie Turnbull of Hibs also played but this match is usually omitted from his appearances.

Poor old Charlie Cox never played for Scotland at all!

Thanks, Andy. That's a real help!

Full explanations for the 1946 matches and the 1948 team can be found on the SFA website.

But what you won't find there - or anywhere else - are answers to the most basic questions of all. Why has it taken nearly sixty years for this to come to light? Surely the players, officials press and public of the day knew whether a match was official or not?

With the head still reeling, maybe it's best to end where we came in - with a riddle? Can you name a fish which starts with a K and ends with a K?*

For the record here's how scottishleague.net reckons the totals should now read with the old figure in brackets. Adjusting totals after taking into account the France game in 1948.
W Campbell (Morton) (5) 4
S Cox (Rangers) (24) 25
E Turnbull (Hibernian) (8) 9
And poor old C Cox (Hearts) (1) now has nothing at all.

Then after adding in the Swiss and Belgian games.

A Baird (Aberdeen) a 'new' cap with 1
F Brennan (Newcastle Utd) (7) becomes F Brennan (Airdrieonians &
Newcastle Utd) 8
R Brown (Rangers) (3) should now be R Brown (Queen's Park & Rangers) 5
J Campbell (Clyde) a 'new' cap with 1
W Campbell (Morton) back to 5 again
J Deakin (St Mirren) a 'new' cap with 1
J Delaney (Celtic & Man Utd) 15 (13)
J Husband (Partick Thistle) 2 (1)
W Liddell (Liverpool) 29 (28)
J McGowan (Partick Thistle) should be a 'new' cap with 1
A Paton (Motherwell) 3 (2)
G Paterson (Celtic) 2 (1)
J Shaw (Rangers) 6 (4)
G Smith (Hibernian) 19 (18)
W Thornton (Rangers) 8 (7)
W Waddell (Rangers) 18 (17)
J Walker (Hearts) a 'new' cap with 1
T Walker (Hearts) 21 (20)

Jimmy Delaney moves to six goals scored and Billy Liddell to eight.

Perhaps more appropriately the centenary match against reigning world champions Brazil in 1973 becomes the 100th international played at Hampden. Not quite so attractive is the 200th game which is now the qualifier for the 2004 European Championships against the Faeroes!


Delaney: Goals and caps count after all

* Kilmarnock - it's a pla(i)ce in Scotland!

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