How to take more than 100 years of history, passion and frankly fanaticism and distil it to 50 names?
Herald Sport's list of 50 Greatest Scottish Footballers will provoke the sort of outbursts one would invite by walking up the steps to Hampden arm in arm with Jimmy Hill.
The criteria for inclusion must necessarily be vague. As the late, great Robert Crampsey said, once players reach a certain level an appreciation of their relative worth is subjective.
Still, there must be standards. All the players on the list won trophies and made significant impacts on big matches. The list tries to cover the beginnings of Scottish football in the late 19th century up until the present day.
The players were chosen after a process that may have not been exhaustive but was exhausting.
Experience shows that there will be few complaints about the personalities who made the cut. The uproar will centre on those who did not.
The humble jury of Herald journalists knows there will be those who believe strongly it came to the wrong conclusions. This is how it should be. This is a list that is impossible to get right. In such selections one can not please all of the people all of the time.
It may be best to consider it as a tribute to a great Scottish sporting tradition. And to look it as a starting point for that other marvellous Scottish past time: the argument.
Herald Sport is offering five bottles of whisky for the best responses to the list. Let the rammy commence . . .
50. RS McColl 1876-1959
Show me your medals: 13 caps.
Class is permanent: Not much available on YouTube of the great man. Started as an amateur with Queen's Park before signing for Newcastle United and then moving to Rangers. He was then reinstated as an amateur with Queen's Park and was known as a prolific goalscorer – 13 goals in 13 international appearances – and an exemplar of how the game should be played. His insertion in this list is a tribute to a time when not only were Scots the best players in the world but the game in this country was considered revolutionary as it was based on passing and movement. Scotland was plundered for its players, with the professional clubs in England relying on the Caledonian brand for success. This trend lasted for more than a century and McColl was followed by such as James, Gallacher, Liddell, Bremner and Dalglish as leaders of top English teams.
View from the terracing: He must have had a hard paper round.
49. Derek Johnstone 1953-
Show me your medals: With Rangers won a European Cup Winners' Cup, three league titles, five Scottish Cups and five League Cups. Capped 14 times.
Class is permanent: DJ came to the fore when scoring the winner in the 1970 League Cup final when still an embryo. He forged an excellent Rangers career on the back of his goals – 210 in 546 appearances – but was also regarded as a ball-playing centre-half. He played with distinction as a teenager in a European final. His versatility probably harmed him slightly as he won only 14 caps but he is remembered with great affection by Rangers fans for playing a leading part in two trebles. Jovial and prone to a wisecrack in his media work, Johnstone was a serious player who could have excelled in the libero role. He would say he preferred a sausage roll. He had an appetite for goals and trophies if not one for sustained running.
View from the terracing: Slightly obscured by his massive frame.
48. David Cooper 1956-1995
Show me your medals: With Rangers won three titles, three Scottish Cups and seven League Cups. Won Scottish Cup with Motherwell. 24 caps.
Class is permanent: His tragically premature death may invite unworthy suggestions that Cooper is included for sentimental reasons. This is rebutted with the assertion that the winger became a legend with three clubs: Clydebank, Rangers and Motherwell. He was one of those players who regarded football as a puzzle to be solved by a quick mind but at a leisurely pace. He confounded opponents, never ran away from them. He had a substantial career but consider the moments that stay in the mind: the keepie-uppie goal against Celtic at Hampden, the free-kicks that flew into the net as if directed by remote control, the almost apologetic trudge back to the half-way line after he created or scored a goal. His most significant strike was the penalty against Wales in 1985 that took Scotland to the World Cup finals in Mexico. It was the most wonderful example of grace under pressure.
View from the terracing: You are allowed to beat the guy just the once, Davie.
47. Paul Lambert 1969-
Show me your medals: Scottish Cup with St Mirren; Champions League with Borussia Dortmund; with Celtic, four titles, three Scottish Cups and two League Cups. Capped 40 times.
Class is permanent: Lambert serves an example of the pioneering spirit that once saw Scots running the Empire, and we don't mean the theatre. He seemed destined for a middling career in his home country before signing for Borussia Dortmund and winning a Champions League. The final was won after Lambert marked Zinedine Zidane out of the match. This was the speciality of the lad from Linwood. He was regularly unobtrusive but consistently influential in matches. His occasional capacity for the spectacular shot was the extravagant flourish to a game based on reading the intentions of opponents and covering for the fallibilities of colleagues. Lambert was a team player and it is no surprise that these teams won major trophies from St Mirren through Borussia to Celtic.
View from the terracing: What did Lambert exactly do? He was the man of the match.
46. Ronnie Simpson 1930-2004
Show me your medals: Two FA Cups with Newcastle United; with Celtic four titles, one Scottish Cup, three League Cups, European Cup. Five caps.
Class is permanent: Social workers were almost involved when he made his debut for Queen's Park. He was only 14 and presumably his debut was not on a school night. His career was defined by his achievements at Celtic, particularly in the European Cup final when his backheel when under pressure from an Inter Milan player produced a generalised outbreak of heart failure in Scotland. Yet Simpson was successful at Newcastle United and, almost incidentally, his truncated Scotland career included the 3-2 victory over England, then world champions, at Wembley. Athletic and extremely agile, Simpson was gently pilloried for his advancing years, being called Faither by the Lisbon Lions, yet he sustained his form in his twilight years on the pitch.
View from the terracing: The ref's booking Simpson. Naw that's no' a card, he's just found Ronnie's bus pass.
45. Pat Stanton 1944-
Show me your medals: Won League Cup with Hibernian; won championship and Scottish Cup with Celtic. Won 16 caps.
Class is permanent: Curious fact is that Stanton is a distant relative of Michael Whelehan, the first captain of Hibernian. This lends some weight to the theory that Pat Stanton was born to be a Hibs skipper. He was both successful and influential when he went to Celtic but his 13-season stay at Easter Road was marked not only by the League Cup victory but by a leadership that was based on the power of example. He was upstanding in attitude and style, roving from the old right-half position to add goals to his learned passing. He was part of a Hibs team that boasted great talents but who were never fully rewarded in terms of trophies because of the strength of the Old Firm who were then powerful in European terms.
View from the terracing: Smoother than Tony Bennett after a hair wax.
44. John Robertson 1953-
Show me your medals: Won two European Cups, one championship, two League Cups with Nottingham Forest. Won 28 caps.
Class is permanent: Another Scottish winger who majored in craft rather than pace. His shambling style was much lampooned by Brian Clough, but the abrasive manager had cause to thank the Scot for his role in the two European Cup triumphs: Robertson laid on the winner against Malmo, and scored the winner against Hamburg. In an era of tackling that would now be the basis of a prosecution for grievous bodily harm, Robertson was almost casually brave. He looked to receive the ball, take on the full-back and deliver a cross. These straightforward attributes are difficult to master but Robertson made it all look simple. He added subtlety and threat to a pragmatic Forest side. Yet he bows to Jimmy Johnstone in the race for the best winger from Viewpark.
View from the terracing: Haw, John, can you stand us a fag?
43. John White 1937-1964
Show me your medals: With Tottenham Hotspur, one championship, two FA Cups and a European Cup-Winners' Cup.
Class is permanent: Another tragic figure in the history of the Scottish game. He died after being struck by lightning while sheltering under a tree on a golf course. He played for Alloa Athletic and Falkirk before joining a Tottenham Hotspur side that has strong claims to be considered one of the great English sides of the 20th century. Packed with strong personalities, the rhythm of the side was orchestrated by the Scot in midfield. He was a clever passer whose talent would have saw him prosper in the modern game, where possession is king, but he also had the ability to find a position where he could help a team-mate out of trouble. An outstanding player who was at the peak of his career when tragedy struck.
View from the terracing: We are all haunted by The Ghost
42. Paul McStay 1964-
Show me your medals: Three league titles, four Scottish Cups, and a League Cup. Won 76 caps.
Class is permanent: The Paul McStay story is one that divides opinion: was this a career that was ultimately unfulfilled or was the maestro unfortunate in trying to galvanise mediocre sides? The eight domestic honours are a more than decent return and his haul of caps testifies to how he was regarded by coaches. He was an outstanding schoolboy player who moved effortlessly in the Celtic first team and led the club through a turbulent period. His diffident personality off the park was taken as a sign of a general lack of assertion but McStay showed courage and will on the pitch by constantly being available to accept responsibility. A transfer to such as Liverpool may have led to him being much further up this list.
View from the terracing: Where's Paul? Out with a back injury. He's been carrying the team too long.
41. Ally McCoist 1962-
Show me your medals: At Rangers won 10 Scottish titles, nine Scottish League Cups, and one Scottish Cup. Scored 355 goals in 581 games for Rangers and 19 in 61 matches with Scotland
Class is permanent: The original Cheeky Chappie who was a serious goalscorer. He was the victim of much discussion – in that Scottish way – over his lack of pace and his, ahem, burly appearance, but McCoist was one of the great Scottish strikers. His speed was that of thought and execution. For all his sunny demeanour, he was a hard man too. He endured the cold shoulder by Graeme Souness and the criticism of fans to survive and then prosper. He was not afraid of physical confrontation, either. Capable of scoring great goals, constitutionally wired to score important ones.
View from the terracing: He may have ate all the pies, but he has just devoured us.
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