Tuesday 30th November 1965: Scotland v Italy Preview #1

commentButton2Worries for the Boss

This must have been a stressful time for Jock Stein. The post of manager to one of the Old Firm sides is difficult enough but at that particular moment in 1965, Stein was also manager of a Scotland side trying to qualify for the finals of the next World Cup, to be held in England in 1966. Having beaten the Italians in the home leg – 1-0 at Hampden on 9th November – the table now stood as below;

P W D L F A Pts
Italy 5 3 1 1 14 2 7
Scotland 5 3 1 1 8 5 7
Poland 6 2 2 2 11 10 5
Finland 6 1 0 5 5 20 2

The final match in the group was coming up in only a week’s time, a must-win away fixture against Italy in Naples. The squad of 22 had already been announced but unfortunately, the league season – in both Scotland and England – was continuing, which meant that players ran the risk of injury, as the headlines on Monday 29th September suggested;-

Henderson’s Injury May Upset Plans For Naples 

‘For all home-based Scots, Saturday was the last outing before Scotland tackle Italy on 7th December. Considering the atrocious conditions our players were asked to play last weekend, it is nothing short of a miracle that only Willie Henderson is doubtful and Bobby Murdoch was the only other one hurt’.


Better News

One day later, however, on 30th September 1965, there was better news for the Scotland manager ;

Henderson should be OK

‘Willie Henderson is 99 per cent certain to play for Scotland in Naples next week.

That was the welcome news from Ibrox yesterday after further treatment to the leg the wee winger hurt at Motherwell on Saturday.

But Henderson will not report to Largs until Thursday afternoon. Twice-daily treatment will continue at Ibrox although Willie will be able to do some light training.

With Jim Baxter’s knock showing vast improvement, Scotland’s chances look a lot brighter.

Baxter will stay in Sunderland meantime; Bill Brown, another casualty, is not expected to travel until later in the week; and Denis Law will play for Manchester United on Wednesday and Saturday.

Unfortunately for Jock Stein, Bobby Ferguson (Kilmarnock), Billy Stevenson (Liverpool), Billy Bremner (Leeds ) and Eddie McCreadie (Chelsea) are also involved in midweek matches’.


Italian Squad

A squad of 18 players was announced by the Italian Soccer Federation for the match against Scotland.

According to Italian writers the team appears stronger forward but weaker in goal than the one which lost 1-0 to Scotland at Hampden on November 9. Five players were from Internazionale; while the other Milanese side, AC Milan, contributed four.


Council Meeting – SFA to allow subs

Two items of great significance were announced at yesterday’s S.F.A. Council meeting in Glasgow.

One was that players may have representatives at future meetings of the referee committee, and the second was that there is the likelihood of Scotland falling into line with England by allowing substitutes in matches’


Training….and News for the Club

For the first team players – and the part-timers – training went on as usual that week. Everyone was there for the Tuesday night session and a good time was had by all, as the coaches made it a fun session, with all the exercises, the runs and the small-sided games all put on a competitive basis, the players divided into teams and the losing ones receiving a punishment, which could be another set of runs or more press-ups. It was good and more importantly, energetic.

And as regards the ‘news’ mentioned above, well let me first of all relate the occurrences of earlier that day.


Date with the Director

No, not a football director; the ‘Director’ in this case was the man was who ran the Dental Hospital. When I first went there in 1961, the post had been held by Professor James Aitchison but recently, Professor Thomas White had taken over and on the morning of this day in 1965, I reported to his secretary for a meeting I had arranged with him.

The subject for discussion, you may recall, was my getting time off for a trip to an as yet un-named country – the draw had not been made at that point – to take part in the away leg of the European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final. I was pretty apprehensive about the meeting but he could not have been nicer, commiserating with me about having to juggle dentistry with top level football and admitting that, although he was more inclined towards the oval ball game, he now made a point of checking Celtic’s results and reading their match reports!

Anyway, I came away with his permission to take the appropriate time off although – there is always a catch – I was to make sure to compensate for the time off by spending more hours in the hospital on non-playing days. Fair enough, I suppose.

As to the news, that came after training, when I was really pleased to tell Sean Fallon that I had received permission to travel with the team for the away leg mentioned above. In contrast to my effervescent enthusiasm, he could not have been more calm about the whole thing but I supposed – or indeed I hoped – that his nod of the head and “OK, son” were symptoms of more important matters on his mind. It once more reminded me that I was a small fish in a big sea!