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
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
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
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
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
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 &
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!