Sunday, June 06, 2010

Scotland in 1958: Familiar feelings, familiar failings

By the time qualifying came around for the 1958 World Cup, FIFA had decided that they could no longer justify offering two places to the Home Nations Championship.

England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would now need to get through normal qualifying groups to takes their place in Sweden. Which all four of them promptly did: an historical curiosity that will surely never be repeated.

Scotland, hinting at the nailbiting qualifiers that would follow in the decades ahead, sneaked through with a 3-2 win against Switzerland. Unlucky Scots? Perhaps, but many who saw it would still argue that Alex Scott's winning goal was offside. No matter - we were on our way.

After the 1954 debacle and Andy Beattie's resignation during the tournament, the SFA had turned to Matt Busby to lead the squad in 1958. With the Munich Air Disaster leaving Busby seriously injured, trainer Dawson Walker took on the manager's job.

France, Yugoslavia and Paraguay lay in wait for a Scottish team who had yet to record a victory in the World Cup.

Tommy Docherty, the presumptive captain, found himself dropped for the first game with Hibs' veteran Eddie Turnbull taking the armband.

The Doc was no stranger to run in with authority and his deselection seems to have stemmed from a disagreement with our old SFA chum George Graham after he pulled out of an international game. It also points to the inconsistency in selection that many players of the time continue to argue seriously hampered their progress.

That aside Scotland took their first World Cup point, Hearts' Jimmy Murray netting the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia.

France had beaten Paraguay 7-3 in the groups other game meaning Scotland's point, while not the perfect start, was a source of some optimism going into the second match against Paraguay.

Optimism that would, somewhat typically, prove unfounded. Jackie Mudie and Bobby Collins both scored for Scotland but Paraguay held on for a 3-2 win.

The chance of a quarter final place looked all but gone and a 2-1 defeat to France in the final condemned us to bottom of the group.

Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine - on his way to 13 tournament goals - had France two up by half time before Sammy Baird pulled one back in the second half.

After two tournaments our record stood at five games played, four lost, one drawn and none won.

We were starting slowly on the world stage, a theme that continued into the games, with both Yugoslavia and Paraguay going ahead inside the first ten minutes. To do that once is careless, twice is just bloody stupid.

For all that we can - and I frequently do - complain about the lack of professionalism at the SFA, we must also look to the players. Drawn from strong teams in Scotland and England the players in 1954 and 1958 should have done better.

Don't believe me? Northern Ireland got through their group before losing to France and Wales missed narrowly missed a semi final spot after a 1-0 defeat to Brazil.

Good news for the Anyone But England campaign though - three draws meant they also fell at the first hurdle. So that's alright then.

And how depressed could Scotland get? We were getting used to this World Cup malarkey now. And there would be another one round in four years for us to look forward to. Or so they might have thought...

Despite captaining the side Eddie Turnbull was one of the unlucky Scotland players not to receive a cap for playing for his country. Only Home Internationals matched were marked with the presentation of cap, a situation that was finally remedied some 50 years later when the SFA awarded caps to Eddie and other players thank to a campaign launched on the back of Gary Imlach's excellent book My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroesabout his father Stewart.

Scotland 1958 World Cup squad


Another inexperienced squad with 12 of the 22 having 10 caps or less. The second most capped, Tommy Docherty, didn't play a game.

Note this was a tournament in which we named a Haddock. Now we just try and qualify with huddies.

Tommy Younger - Liverpool
Bill Brown - Dundee
Alex Parker - Everton
Eric Caldow - Rangers
John Hewie - Charlton Athletic
Harry Haddock - Clyde
Ian McColl - Rangers
Eddie Turnbull - Hibernian
Bobby Evans - Celtic
Tommy Docherty - Preston North End
Dave Mackay - Heart of Midlothian
Doug Cowie - Dundee
Sammy Baird - Rangers
Graham Leggat - Aberdeen
Alex Scott - Rangers
Jimmy Murray - Heart of Midlothian
Jackie Mudie - Blackpool
John Coyle - Clyde
Bobby Collins - Celtic
Archie Robertson - Clyde
Stewart Imlach - Nottingham Forest
Willie Fernie - Celtic