Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Despite Stirling being victorious 4 - 2 Ally frequently joked that his was a debut with a difference. Although he did not set the local heather on fire - someone else did that - because as the teams trooped off the field at the end of the match, Cathkin's grandstand was ablaze. The players had to run into the dressing room, grab their clothes & race out as four fire engines had arrived to tackle the fire. Ally though had done enough to suggest that unorthodoxy and McLeod were to become synonymous. His completely unique style of play not only flummoxed his own team mates on occasions but definitely confused the opposition.
In ], Ally was in the Thirds side which trounced Alloa in the league cup opener, 10 - 0. Sitting 8 - 0 up McLeod's team mates' main objective was to get him on the scoresheet. He had set up five goals but had missed several sitters himself. Happily a left foot rocket shot, and a simple tap in took Thirds tally to 10 and gave him the double. He joined the Royal Scots for National Service but was still able to turn out for the Thirds.
Ally was reluctant to move to St Mirren in 1956, but having secured a guarantee that the reported £8,000 fee would tremendously help Third Lanark's survival, he moved and carved out a superb playing career. He spent only six weeks at St Mirren before moving to English team Blackburn Rovers. He was man of the match in the 1960 FA Cup Final, but the game was lost 3-0 to Wolves. While at Blackburn he made strenuous efforts to help abolish the minimum wage but when, in consequence, his wage was raised from £20 to £25 per week, he complained and was transferred, to Hibernian in 1960. He played with Hibs until 1963, when he returned to Third Lanark. In 1964 he signed for Ayr United, where he finished his playing career. His playing career was somewhat average, with him winning no major honours.
He started his managerial career in 1966 when he took charge of Ayr United. He took Ayr back to Scotland's top division and maintained their status. He took them to a League Cup semi-final and also set their attendeance record with 25,225 watching a 2-1 sucess over Rangers. In 1973, McLeod was named Ayr's "Citizen of the Year".
In 1975, after nine years at Ayr, he accepted a new challenge at Aberdeen where he guided them to a Scottish League Cup final success over Celtic and second place in the Premier League. After such success with Ayr and Aberdeen, it was no surprise when in May 1977 the SFA came calling and he was appointed manager of the Scotland national football team. He introduced himself to the squad with the blunt statement: "My name is Ally McLeod and I am a winner." For his first year in charge, during which he ensured qualification for the 78 World Cup in Argentina from a group containing Wales and the then European champions, Czechoslovakia, indeed he was.
Scotland's World Cup campaign started on a high, with Ally declaring to the world that he would be back with "at least a medal", to a background of maniacally happy fans singing "We're on the way with Ally's Army". Qualification was particularly sweet for Scotland since, for the second World Cup in succession, Scotland had achieved what England had not. Defeat against England (who had fallen to McLeod's team the previous year) in the Home Championships of 1978 was taken to mean little: MacLeod was tinkering with the team and the players' main concern was to avoid injury. Spirits remained sky-high as 25,000 people came to Hampden Park to watch the squad circle the ground in an open-top bus prior to their departure for Argentina. Prestwick Airport was packed with supporters seeing the team off.
There had been some murmurs of discontent concerning McLeod's selection, and some observers were worried by the absence through injury of the superb full-back Danny McGrain, but Peru were not expected to provide many problems in the first match. Peru, however, won the game 3-1. Scotland took the lead but missed a penalty and in general failed to play to their potential. Or, as McLeod himself put it, the performance was "rank bad".
Plentiful excuses emerged: there had been a dispute concerning bonuses, the hotel swimming pool had no water in it, there was nothing for the players to do. And then it was revealed that the winger Willie Johnston, expected by many to be one of the stars of the tournament, had taken a cold tablet which contained a banned substance, fencamfamin. He was sent home. McLeod, at a press conference, saw a mongrel dog approach: "I think he is the only friend I have got left," he said, stretching out a hand. The dog bit him.
The press were viciously unforgiving of the fallen idols and many stories were exaggerated or cooked up, to the distress of wives back home. Even so, no one expected Scotland to fail in the next match. But the game with Iran finished a 1-1 draw, after an even worse display by the Scots. They then needed to beat Holland, one of the tournament favourites, by three clear goals, to qualify. And only in that match, with everything almost lost, did Scotland begin to play as they could.
When Archie Gemmill scored what is widely thought to be one of the greatest World Cup goals ever (it was officially ranked seventh best by Fifa), to make the score 3-1 to Scotland, qualification to the next phase at last looked possible. The game, though, ended 3-2, and Scotland were eliminated. Holland proceeded to the final, where they lost to Argentina.
McLeod survived an immediate inquest by the sport's authorities but resigned after one more game in charge, only 17 matches and about 500 days after his appointment. The Scottish Football Association's annual report, issued in May 1979, stated that, "regardless of the depressing aspects of Mr McLeod's latter days in the Association's employ, it would be quite unfair not to comment that he was largely responsible for kindling an enthusiasm for the Scottish team that far exceeded anything which had gone before. The Association benefited considerably from that enthusiasm and should not forget it".
In his autobiography, The Ally McLeod Story (1979), he wondered whether he had "generated just too much excitement. Had I raised the level of national optimism just too high?" But he was able to console himself - "Would the Scottish fans have tolerated anything less from me than whole-hearted conviction?" McLeod also reassured the reader that he, for one, never thought that Scotland were invincible, and claimed to be perfectly at peace with himself. "I am a very good manager who just happened to have a few disastrous days, once upon a time, in Argentina."
His subsequent managerial career, which included spells at Motherwell (1979-1981), Airdrie (1984-1985), a return to Ayr (1986-1989) and Queen of the South, stuttered on into the 1990s, and he came to be treated with sardonic affection by the Scottish footballing public, but he was never likely to be remembered for anything but Argentina, when the whole of Scotland was on the march with "Ally's Army".
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