Wee Jamesy and an unappreciated Scottish genius

This weekend a Celtic winger was on the scoresheet for Scotland.

James Forrest’s second goal against Albania is likely to be widely shared on social media for a long time to come.

A wide player who regularly scores goals is a valuable asset for any team.

Consequently, the national manager Mr Alexander McLeish EBT would be rather silly if he didn’t pick him on a regular basis.

Also, this weekend the Celtic family and the good people of Saltcoats honoured one of their own.

The Parkhead side that I was taken to see as a wee fella was equipped with an IED to demolish opposition defences.

Improvising Explosive Deadly.

When the “Buzz Bomb” put on the afterburners there wasn’t a defender in the league that could legally stop him.

Between 1961–1980, Bobby Lennox scored 273 goals in 571 games.

He is the club’s second all-time goalscorer, despite the fact that he usually played out wide.

At the height of his powers, the best defenders in Europe wilted as he whooshed past them.

Once in on goal, he was an executioner.

Amazingly this stunning talent only played for his country ten times.

Years later he would say:

“I would still like to think I deserved more than the 10 caps I got, scoring three goals in six wins, three draws and only one defeat.

It wasn’t a bad record but maybe I was a victim of the times.”

Unlike football clubs, nations cannot sign players.

Consequently, they are at the mercy of the ebbs and flows of talent that the country can produce in any given era.

As a boy in the 1960s, the Fitba experts around me were still enthralled with the “Mighty Magyars”.

When the Hungarians humbled England 6-3 in November 1953 they threw out the prevailing orthodoxy of tactics and formations.

Two of the six goals for the visitors were scored that day by Ferenc Puskás.

Of course, “The Galloping Major” would become the spearhead of the all-conquering Real Madrid side.

It was the golden age of Hungarian football and it has never been replicated.

That can happen in the footballing fortunes of a country.

The thing is to know that you are living through a golden age and to appreciate it.

A decade later Scotland produced 11 sons who would win a trophy that Los Blancos had pretty considered to be their personal property while Ferenc Puskás was leading the line for them.

Bobby Lennox was in that immortal eleven.

The Lisbon Lions squad had other players in it who would now have a market value that would sound like the GDP of a small country.

Despite that Scotland had such an embarrassment of riches that it could largely discard Stein’s heroes.

The man who scored the immortal winner at Stadio Nacional in 1967 was already out of the plans at Hampden.

Stevie Chalmers received five full caps for Scotland between 1964 and 1966, scoring three goals.

Given these facts, the Scotland national team must have been an ever-present at international tournaments in those years.

Quite…

A cynic might conclude that back in the day it was just too much for the chaps at Hampden that a club set up by Irish immigrants had clearly become the real footballing power in  Fair Caledonia.

The year before the Hungarians destroyed England at Wembley the Referee Committee of the SFA ruled “that Celtic be asked to refrain from displaying in its park any flag or emblem that had no association with the country or the sport” on match days.

This was about the flying of the Irish Tricolour and the Parkhead club looked to be on a collision course with the SFA.

For the rest of the 1951/52 season, the threat of Celtic being suspended from football remained extant.

Therefore, the apparent exclusion of Stein’s men starts to look explicable when you consider that the same blazers were probably still in place in the 1960s.

However, I’m sure all that stuff is in the past.

However, Scotland’s golden age has almost certainly past as well.

It is for historians to examine why such footballing riches were apparently ignored by those in charge of the national game back then.

 

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