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Wembley Wizards 1967

The Scotland team walk out at Wembley

© EMPICS

In 1967, Scotland travelled to their strongest opponents in their European Championship qualifying group and came away with a very credible victory against the team who were then current world championships.

However, the 3-2 win was not enough for Scotland to finish top of the group and it would be another seven years before Scotland would qualify for a major tournament, despite having what many would regard as the finest collection of Scotland players ever.

Put in this perspective, Scotland's victory against England at Wembley, the first game England had lost since becoming World Champions, fits within Scotland's canon of glorious failures, such as the win over Holland in 1978 and 2003, rather than the famous victory it is generally considered to be.

The Scotland team who ran onto the Wembley pitch on 11 April 1967, included four players who would gone on to win European Cup medals in Lisbon one month later, and two Rangers players who would lose to Bayern Munich in the European Cup-Winners' Cup final the same week. Added to this base were three players who walk into any all-time greatest Scotland 11; Baxter, Law and Bremner.

Despite the quality within Scotland's ranks, they were considered underdogs going into the match, as the opposition was virtually the same England 11 who won the World Cup only nine months previously and had gone 19 games undefeated.

Before the match new manager Bobby Brown upset sections of the press by giving 36-year-old Celtic keeper Ronnie Simpson his first Scotland cap ahead of Kilmarnock's Bobby Ferguson. The Glasgow Herald noted that the last Celtic goalie to play at Wembley was Frank Haffey, who let in nine goals only six years previously, and hoped it wouldn't be a bad omen.

However, the agile veteran made an excellent debut for his country and couldn't be faulted for England's two goals from Jack Charlton and Geoff Hurst.

Denis Law scores Scotland's opener

© SCRAN

Lisbon Lions Bobby Murdoch and Jimmy Johnstone were both injured and the loss of Johnstone was seen as a major blow as he had scored twice against England the last time the sides had met at Hampden, when England won 4-3.

Interestingly, Ron McKinnon of Rangers kept Billy McNeil out of the side after the Celtic captain had missed earlier games through injury and then couldn't reclaim his place. Jim McCalliog of Sheffield Wednesday also made his Scotland debut that day in London and marked it with Scotland's third goal.

Before the game, all of Scotland's starting 11 bar one were fired up for this Home International encounter. The Anglos were especially keen for a victory after being taunted in dressing rooms since England had won the Jules Rimet Trophy. Famously Denis Law couldn't bear to watch the World Cup final even on TV and went out to play golf, apparently exclaiming "Bastards" on hearing Scotland's near neighbours had been crowned champions of the world.

During the game Law's desire for revenge was evident, as the Manchester United striker was at the centre of most of the incidents during the match and bundled Scotland's opener after 27 minutes from picking up a rebound from a Willie Wallace shot.

This was at odds with fellow Anglo Jim Baxter, who had moved to Sunderland from Rangers in 1965. According to legend 10 minutes before the game began 'slim' Jim was reading the form in the Racing Post. When the Scotland trainer suggested he might want to warm up before the most important game in his country's calendar, Baxter first of all stretched out his left leg and then his right. "That's me warmed up," he said, eyes still fixed on the paper.

And watching re-runs of the game suggests there could be some truth in this story, as the out-of-shape midfielder strolled through what was a frenetic game.

Scottish players celebrate Bobby Lennox's goal

© EMPICS

The Scottish victory was a result of individual brilliance built on a solid defensive rock. Scotland's fullbacks Tommy Gemmell and Eddie McCreadie had the freedom to support wingers Wallace and Lennox as England manager Alf Ramsay continued with his wingless wonders formation, which had won them the World Cup.

Instead England knocked long balls forward in the hope of finding Hurst and Greaves but neither had much joy against Greig and McKinnon.

Scotland were undoubtedly helped by an injury incurred by England's centre-half Jack Charlton as he tackled Lennox early in the first half. Although he stayed on the park for the full 90 minutes playing as a forward, the big Leeds player could barely run. He did, however, manage to score England's opener.

To the modern viewer, the Wembley Wizards game makes for strange viewing. Players made long runs forward with the ball at their feet, often not closed down and would then shoot at goal from outrageous distances when team mates were in better scoring positions. The formations were also very fluid; both Denis Law and Bobby Charlton dropped back to pick up the ball from outside their own penalty boxes on more than one occasion.

Many tackles which would have had players sent off today were simply waved on by German referee Gerd Schulenburg.

A Scottish fan hugs Jim Baxter after the match

© EMPICS

Glyn Edwards described the game's most famous incident the following Monday in The Herald: "I shall cherish for a long time the memory of Baxter slowing down the game to almost walking pace, insouciantly juggling the ball with instep, forehead and knees while Stiles, no more than a couple of yards away, bobbed up and down, unsure whether to make his challenge at knee or head level."

But it wasn't the juggling that was remarkable, which only lasted a couple of seconds, it was that somebody was slowing the pace and looking for the best pass in a match where, on the whole, hearts were ruling heads.

Although the result was enough to see Scotland as winners of the Home Internationals for 1967, they missed the larger prize of a quarter-final match against Spain in 1968's European Championships due to poor results in other matches. The Scots lost in Belfast to Northern Ireland and could only draw with England at Hampden in the corresponding fixture the following February. Scotland finished the group on eight points, one behind winners England.

TEAMS

England
1. Banks (Leicester)
2. Cohen (Fulham)
3. Wilson (Everton)
4. Stiles (Manchester Utd)
5. J. Charlton (Leeds)
6. Moore (West Ham Utd)
7. Ball (Everton)
8. Greaves (Spurs)
9. B. Charlton (Manchester Utd)
10. Hurst (West Ham Utd)
11. Peters (West Ham Utd)

Scotland
1. Simpson (Celtic)
2. Gemmell (Celtic)
3. McCreadie (Chelsea)
4. Greig (Rangers)
5. McKinnon (Rangers)
6. Baxter (Sunderland)
7. Wallace (Celtic)
8. Bremner (Leeds)
9. McCalliog (Sheffield Wed)
10. Law (Manchester Utd)
11. Lennox (Celtic)

GOALS

Law 0-1, Lennox 0-2, J. Charlton 1-2, McCalliog 1-3, Hurst 2-3.

Written by: Gordon Cairns



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