Colin Stein was the last player to score three in a match
25 March ~ Edging towards a first major tournament in 18 years, Scotland’s renaissance needs a goalfest. With Northern Ireland then Gibraltar coming to Glasgow, easy home victories would provide vital respite in a stressfully tight Euro 2016 campaign. What doesn’t help, however, is that it’s 46 years since anyone scored a hat-trick for Scotland.
May 1969 against Cyprus at Hampden in a World Cup qualifier – we won 8-0 and Colin Stein scored four in 39 minutes. This was the 29th Scotland hat-trick and remains our last. Denis Law once grabbed three of them in a year. The immortal Hughie Gallacher managed three in the 1920s, RS McColl did likewise in the Victorian era and the 5-1 “Wembley Wizards” victory of 1928 saw Huddersfield’s Alex Jackson score in the third, 65th and 85th minute against England.
Wednesday’s friendly opponents, Northern Ireland, have an even worse qualifying record than Scotland. Yet in 2006 David Healy scored three against Spain, arguably history’s greatest one-off national team. Welshman Robert Earnshaw hit three against us in a 2004 Cardiff friendly. And apparently some England player once managed a hat-trick in some big final.
Sunday’s Euro 2016 meeting with Gibraltar, in their first ever qualifying tournament, seems like ideal hat-trick fodder; especially as I once stood at a packed Hampden when Maurice Johnston scored braces against Spain and France in World Cup qualifying campaigns. But I also sat in a half-empty national stadium as four players shared five goals against the Faroe Islands en route to Euro 96. There were 20 minutes left when John Collins got his second but there was more chance of frost bite than a hat-trick.
Arriving home from a school disco in 1982 I found my dad staring blankly at the TV, the live coverage of our Euro 84 qualifier in Brussels long finished, muttering “Dalglish couldn’t’ve done any more… ”. Our joint all-time top scorer had twice, brilliantly, given us the lead. But Belgium, unlike Kenny Dalglish in any of his 102 caps, scored three.
Dalglish holds the record with Law, who managed his 30 Scotland goals in just 55 games. Yet Law made just one appearance at a World Cup, against Zaire in 1974. Stein’s four against Cyprus couldn’t get us to Mexico 1970. Dalglish, on the other hand, played at West Germany in 1974, Argentina 78 and Spain 82. The end of Scottish hat-tricks coincided with us reaching six out of seven World Cups.
However, having now qualified for nothing since France 98, a nation eliminated from three tournaments on goal difference needs a striker with a hat-trick. John Wark equalled the record for goals in a European tournament with 14 as Ipswich won the 1981 UEFA Cup. One year later, failure to complete his hat-trick in a 5-2 win over New Zealand eventually put Scotland out of Spain 82.
We spread goals throughout the team almost pathologically. In 1984 we beat Yugoslavia 6-1 in a friendly featuring seven different scorers. In 2006 a Kris Boyd penalty put Scotland 3-0 up against the Faroes after 24 minutes. Five minutes later captain Darren Fletcher won another penalty. He handed the ball to Kenny Miller, who was enduring a dry spell. Miller converted but Boyd, the all-time top scorer in Scotland’s Premier League, grabbed another before half-time. Scotland won 6-0, no one got three, and Fletcher’s historical ignorance still grates.
In November 2012 Jordan Rhodes scored twice in the first half hour in Luxembourg. This was the Huddersfield player who grabbed six hat-tricks the previous season. I watched the live coverage with anticipation rare for a friendly. Born two months after Stein destroyed Cyprus, this would be the first Scotland hat-trick of my lifetime: Rhodes wasn’t subbed until the 90th minute. Scotland held on to win 2-1. So, against Gibraltar we should probably just concentrate on scoring three points. Alex Anderson