England versus Scotland used to be the international highlight for both countries’ players, none more so than at Leeds United. Trevor Cherry looks back at that era for the Auld Enemy. Leon Wobschall reports.
FROM ‘Slim Jim’ Baxter’s impromptu game of keepie-uppie to Paul Gascoigne’s ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration and Gordon McQueen’s crashing header, Wembley’s montage of England versus Scotland memories would fill a fair-sized scrapbook.
It is a fair bet that another entry will be made tomorrow evening when one of the most venerated international footballing rivalries in the game renews acquaintances.
More’s the pity that the Leeds United involvement in proceedings will be minimal. It never used to be that way..
The fixture’s heyday unquestionably co-existed with those heady Super Leeds days of the late sixties and seventies.
It was when the oft-lamented Home Internationals were afforded their full place in the sun at the end of the domestic season when the looming sight of an Auld Enemy clash usually kept the competitive fires burning for a plethora of Leeds players before attention turned to sun, sea and sangria.
From Bremner to Clarke, Lorimer to Cooper, Gray to Madeley and Jordan to Cherry – and many others besides – club-mates put friendships temporarily to one side to do battle in a no-holds barred fixture in which anything goes.
The yearly occasion was given extra piquancy in the seventies by the fact that Scotland qualified for two World Cups, whereas England stayed at home.
For United’s high priest in Don Revie, the fixture provided him with polar opposites in terms of emotions.
From arguably the finest hour of his 29-match spell in charge of England on May 24, 1975 when the Gerry Francis inspired hosts routed Scotland 5-1 to that day just over two years later when ‘Ally’s Army’ triumphed 2-1, thanks in part to a booming header from Leeds’ centre-back McQueen.
That was an occasion that former Leeds great Trevor Cherry will also not forget in a hurry, as the jubilant Tartan hordes won’t either with large chunks of the Wembley turf taken home as ‘souvenirs’ following the final whistle after an infamous 2-1 triumph on June 4, 1977.
Cherry, who came on a substitute that day, told the YEP: “I always remember the one where the (Scotland) fans ‘did’ the posts.
“The atmosphere were tremendous, to be fair, and they played well that day. We did not really know about all the other stuff kicking off until afterwards.
“They had a very good side. When England played Scotland at Wembley, it was like the Pied Piper calling them (Scotland fans) and such a massive occasion.
“Scotland was always the big one with the quality of players they had.”
Cherry is rather more inclined to recollect memories of a 2-0 Hampden win for England in the fixture in the spring of 1980, with the classy defender also sampling a defeat in Glasgow in 1976 when Leeds team-mates Joe Jordan and Eddie Gray lined up for the hosts.
From a 0-0 stalemate in April 1970 – watched by a staggering Hampden crowd of 137,438 – to a 1-1 draw in Glasgow in May 1984, one side was left to celebrate at the final whistle in the 14 fixtures in between.
That usually meant one select group possessing the bragging rights back at the Leeds’ training ground.
Legend has it that Revie famously one organised a five-a-side match at Fullerton Park in the early 1970s between his English and Scottish international contingent – with the legendary boss forced to call an early halt due to something akin to World War Three almost breaking out as the tackles flew in.
Whites great Peter Lorimer, very much in the navy blue of Scotland, once recalled to the YEP: “Within a few minutes, Don realised he was making a big mistake as the tackles were flying in and he had to cancel straightaway or else he knew there would be trouble!
“In the first five minutes, who was the first tackle between but Norman (Hunter) and Billy (Bremner) and both trainers were on the pitch because they could not resist a tackle and whacked each other right up in the air.”
Given that, it was somewhat wise on the part of Revie to forego that idea in the future. It was clearly far too dangerous.
Cherry added: “If we’d had regular England v Scotland five-a-sides, I don’t think we’d have been able to play on a Saturday!
“At Leeds, we always talked about the fixture in the build-up and it was one where you really did not want to lose as the stick carried on for a week or two after.
“On the day, you played against your team-mates, but you never spoke or anything.
“But no favours were asked or given on the pitch. You may have been club team-mates, but they were the opposition.
“They were such competitive games and there was no love lost between the lads when you played, although it was always great afterwards and the banter was good.
“The funniest memory I have was once going to Hampden. I do not know why to this day, but we went up in cars. I remember winning there and it was a red-hot day and we’d played well.
“On the way back, we stopped at some traffic lights and a Scottish lad pulled up alongside and stopped and got out of his car.
“We just thought: ‘Here we go..” But then he just said: ‘Here you are, lads – have a drink with us’ and passed us a can of lager.”
Much conjecture this week has centred upon the fact that both England and Scotland’s footballing powers have waned significantly from those days in the seventies – more especially in the case of the latter.
Cherry is not one to disagree, although the feisty element on show will no doubt provide a dramatic antidote to a dilution in quality.
Cherry, capped 27 times by England between 1976 and 1980, added: “Unfortunately, Scottish football seems to have deteriorated and there are not as many class players coming out now.
“They had some tremendous players and competitors when I was playing.
“Scotland may not be the force they used to be, but that will go out of the window with the competitive element on Friday. If it goes to the form book, England should win, but it doesn’t work like that, does it.
“It’s just a shame no Leeds players will be involved like they used to be.”