Gers At The World Cup Part 3
1982: No Gers in the Scotland squad... but McClelland stars for Northern Ireland
WITH Rangers going through a period of little success in the early 1980s, the club wasn’t represented at all in the Scotland squad which traveled to the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
They did, however, have a player in the Northern Ireland squad – John McClelland – and he was joined in the Ulstermen’s team by Jimmy Nicholl, who would, of course, go on to have two spells at Ibrox as a player and later be assistant manager to Graeme Murty.
Northern Ireland went into the tournament, their first since 1958, as massive underdogs, and were drawn in Group 5 alongside the hosts Spain, Honduras and Yugoslavia.
McClelland, a future Rangers captain, went into the tournament having made 22 appearances for the Light Blues, the vast bulk of them coming in the second half of the season as the Gers finished the season in third place, while they lost the Scottish Cup Final 4-1 to Aberdeen after extra time.
He soon put that disappointment behind him, however, and lined up in the Green and White Army’s starting XI for their first match against a talented Yugoslavia outfit in Zaragoza, from which they earned a very creditable 0-0 draw.
On then to game two, again in Zaragoza, and again with McClelland and this time against Honduras. The great Gerry Armstrong had the Ulstermen ahead after just 10 minutes but Eduardo Laing leveled on the hour mark to leave their hopes of progression hanging by a thread.
To qualify for round two, they had to defeat the hosts in Valencia. It seemed, surely, to be a step too far, but incredibly, that’s exactly what they did.
Again, that man Armstrong grabbed the winning goal just after half time, and despite being down to 10-men for the final half hour following Mal Donaghy’s dismissal, with McClelland in defence they held out for a remarkable victory to see them not only qualify, but to do so as group winners.
Rather than have the conventional knockout format which is used nowadays, the 12 teams which made it through were drawn into four new groups of three teams each, with Northern Ireland in with France and Austria.
The Austrians were up first, again with McClelland in from the start, and they earned a 2-2 draw with Billy Hamilton scoring twice to set-up a winner-takes-all clash with France in the final game at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid.
But this was where the fairytale ended. The French, who would storm to victory in the Euros just two years later, proved to be just too strong and ran out 4-1 winners.
The dream for the Ulstermen was over, but they had achieved more than could ever have been expected of them, with Rangers’ John McClelland playing a full part in all five of their matches.
1982 World Cup Final: Italy 3-1 West Germany
Top Scorer: Paolo Rossi (6)
World Cup poster, 1982
1986: Scots Fail Yet Again
Disappointment for Souness and Co. with Scotland
1986 saw Scotland qualify for their fourth World Cup on the bounce, and this time, their squad included a Rangers player.
The late, great Davie Cooper was called-up by Alex Ferguson, who led the team to Mexico following the tragic death of previous boss Jock Stein. Ferguson was assisted by Craig Brown and a certain Walter Smith.
In a rather interesting dynamic, by the time the tournament kicked off, Smith was already preparing to head to Ibrox alongside the Scotland captain Graeme Souness, who were Rangers’ new management duo.
Off they went then to Mexico, where they were drawn in Group E alongside West Germany, Denmark and Uruguay. In a change to the format, 24 teams made this World Cup with 16 set to qualify for the second phase. The top two in every pool would automatically qualify, along with the four best third-place teams.
Scotland’s opening game ended in a 1-0 defeat to the Danes, with Cooper unused and Souness trying to pull the strings in midfield.
That was then followed by a 2-1 defeat to Germany, where Scotland took the lead through Gordon Strachan before he famously tried and failed to jump over the advertising hoardings to celebrate. This time, Cooper was given his chance as a 74th minute substitute for Eamonn Bannon.
It all came down to the final match then for Scotland, where a win over Uruguay would be enough to see them through as one of the best third-place sides.
Sensationally, Souness was dropped for the match by Ferguson, leaving Willie Miller to captain the side. Inside a minute, the Scots’ hopes were boosted with Uruguay going down to 10 men with Jose Batista receiving the earliest bath in World Cup history following a shocking challenge on Strachan.
Indeed, further tackles of a similar or even worse nature went unpunished by the French referee as the game progressed, and despite missing plenty of chances to see them through, the game ended 0-0 and Scotland, once again, were out. Again, Cooper featured in that game, coming on in the 70th minute for Steve Nicol.
Cooper, however, wasn’t the only Gers player to be called-up to the tournament. Youngster Colin Miller, who made four appearances for Gers in 1986, made the Canada squad for their maiden World Cup tournament. He didn’t, however, make any appearances as they were knocked out at the group stage following defeats to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union.
Elsewhere, Ibrox-bound Terry Butcher played in all five of England’s games as they reached the quarter-final stage, only to be beaten by Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal. Chris Woods was also en-route to Glasgow at that point and made the squad, but had to play second-fiddle to the legendary Peter Shilton.
1986 World Cup Final: Argentina 3-2 West Germany
Top Scorer: Gary Lineker (6)
World Cup poster, 1986