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Scotland cap it all off

Scotland cap it all off

Alphabetical numbering is the most well-known ‘quirky’ style, but it’s not the only one.

In the 1990 World Cup, and the European Championship in Sweden two years later, Scotland employed a system which – to the best of our knowledge – nobody else has replicated.

If you just had a quick glance at the squad list, you mightn’t twig anything, as numbers 2, 3, 4 and 6 were defenders, 5, 8 and 10 were midfielders and 7 and 9 were strikers. Only number 11 on Gary Gillespie, a defender, jarred with what you might consider acceptable.

The basis for the allocation of the numbers was the amount of caps each player had, in descending order. Goalkeeper Jim Leighton was excluded, but if the system had been rigorously applied then he would have been him in number 2 and the most-capped player, Alex McLeish, wearing 1. The only other change was that of strikers Gordon Durie and Alan McInally. It’s possible that the numbers were assigned before friendlies against Egypt, Poland and Malta. Durie played only against Egypt, while McInally started the other two. The full squad, with caps in brackets, was as follows:

  1. Jim Leighton (55)
  2. Alex McLeish (69)
  3. Roy Aitken (53)
  4. Richard Gough (49)
  5. Paul McStay (46)
  6. Maurice Malpas (34)
  7. Mo Johnston (33)
  8. Jim Bett (24)
  9. Ally McCoist (23)
  10. Murdo MacLeod (14)
  11. Gary Gillespie (11)
  12. Andy Goram (9)
  13. Gordon Durie (6)
  14. Alan McInally (7)
  15. Craig Levein (5)
  16. Stuart McCall (5)
  17. Stewart McKimmie (4)
  18. John Collins (4)
  19. Dave McPherson (4)
  20. Gary McAllister (3)
  21. Robert Fleck (1)
  22. Bryan Gunn (1)

Scotland’s team for their opening game, against Costa Rica, had something of a Uruguayan feel, with 2 at centre-back, 4 and 6 as the full-backs and 5 in central midfield (there is a chance that Gough was centre-back with McPherson right-back, but the Rothmans Football Yearbook for that season has Gough at right-back).



When Scotland qualified for Euro 92, they followed broadly the same system, but this time there were a few discrepancies.

Gough – who had worn 2 in the 1986 World Cup – was in that shirt again despite having one cap fewer than McStay, who was 3. In 1990, reserve goalkeeper Goram had been 12th in the list of caps but now he was first-choice and took 1. His deputy Henry Smith was a relative newcomer with only three caps, but he wore 12. Number 18 Dave Bowman and 19 Alan McLaren should have been the other way round too.

Again, it’s likely that the list had been decided before Scotland played the USA, Canada and Norway in friendlies prior to going to Sweden. Before these games, Gough and McStay had the same number of caps, but Gough missed the USA game while McStay played in all three.

Additionally, Bowman had one cap to his name while McLaren had yet to feature but he played in all three with Bowman only being seen once, leaving McLaren on three and Bowman on two. Duncan Ferguson had also been cap-less before these games but played against the USA and Canada.

  1. Andy Goram (20)
  2. Richard Gough (56)
  3. Paul McStay (57)
  4. Maurice Malpas (50)
  5. Ally McCoist (38)
  6. Brian McClair (23)
  7. Gordon Durie (19)
  8. Dave McPherson (20)
  9. Stewart McKimmie (17)
  10. Stuart McCall (17)
  11. Gary McAllister (15)
  12. Henry Smith (3)
  13. Pat Nevin (12)
  14. Kevin Gallacher (9)
  15. Tom Boyd (9)
  16. Jim McInally (7)
  17. Derek Whyte (4)
  18. Dave Bowman (2)
  19. Alan McLaren (3)
  20. Duncan Ferguson (2)

For their games against Germany and the Netherlands, Scotland had the 11 most capped players on the field and looked something like this:

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Scotland cap it all off