Aberdeen teammates, Old Firm rivals, Scotland managers - Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan are one of our game's great double acts.

We record a call with our new Euro 2020 columnists...


What are your recollections of your Scotland debuts?


GS: “My Scotland debut was against Northern Ireland over there.

“I think that was the first game when they tried out putting your names on the back of the strips.

“We started off with Strachan and Gemmill, but by the end of the game we could have been anybody! It kept falling off, you started off as one person and finished up as another.

“That was probably handy, because I didn’t have a very good game.”

AM: “Did we win?”

GS: “Naw, of course we didn’t. We got beat 1-0, they had a decent side with Billy Hamilton and all those guys who got to the ’82 World Cup and beat Spain. A very strong side.

“It was a bumpy, home international surface. Remember at the end of the season? You used to head to the corners to see if you could find some grass.

“The only real recollection I’ve got of the game is forgetting to leave my dad tickets.

“Jock Stein came to speak to me 10 minutes before the game and said ‘Hey sir, have you forgotten anything?’ I’m checking my boots and my shin pads and said ‘Naw, I think I’ve got everything.’

“He said ‘Naw you’ve no, you’ve no left your dad any tickets, I’ve sorted him out though.’

“So that was my debut. I wasn’t very good.”

AM: “I remember being at the player of the year dinner on the Sunday night before a midweek game, and I was in the squad for my debut.

“I played in midfield at the time, I was the guy who gave it to Gordon to do the good stuff.”

HeraldScotland: 12/08/13.SCOTLAND TRAINING.UNIVERSITY SPORTS GROUND - ST ALBANS.Scott Brown (left) chats with Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

GS: “You never had the ball to give it to me in those days.”

AM: “Aye, well. Jock Stein was at the dinner, John McDonald beat me on a recount of votes…”

GS: “A recount of all the Rangers supporters! It was the most ridiculous result I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Somebody who won the league, and then all the Rangers supporters in the lower leagues voted for John McDonald. It was hilarious.”

AM: “So, anyway, big Jock said ‘You were unlucky to miss out tonight, but you’re going to play in your first Scotland game on Wednesday night against Portugal.’

“I played in midfield with wee Archie Gemmill, who at that time was nearing the end of his career, but he was still a terrific little organiser and a decent player.

“We won 4-1, in those days we could beat Portugal 4-1! So, it was a memorable debut.

“I think I stuck one through for Steve Archibald to score, and that was my first game for Scotland. If it had been my last, I would still have been ecstatic to have played for my country.”


Best performance you saw from each other in the dark blue?


GS: “There’s obviously been a lot of terrific performances, but in this game Scotland won 1-0 at Wembley in a horrible wet day and John Robertson scored a penalty.

“I had a ruptured stomach muscle, a hernia and something else. I was out for about seven months, so I was watching it on TV lying recovering from a hernia operation.

“It was fantastic performance where Alex played with Willie Miller, it was just a magnificent performance of centre-halfs dealing with anything that come to them.

“That’s probably the best one I watched. It’s very hard when you’re right in there.

“At the start of the lockdown they were showing old games, and I sat down and watched the game where we played West Germany in ’86.

“It’s the first time I’ve sat down and watched it, and it was completely different to what I thought.

“Roy Aitken was in midfield, and he was absolutely terrific. But at that time if you had asked me who were the best players on the day, I wouldn’t have put Roy in it.

“I phoned him up, and I haven’t spoken to him on the phone, well, ever. I said ‘Roy, it’s Gordon. I’ve just watched this game and I thought you were absolutely terrific. See you later.’ And I put the phone down.”

AM: “Funnily enough, the big stick-out Gordon performance for me was when I was in my bed watching that game. It was the famous game where Gordon annoyed them by scoring against them.

“The reason I was lying in my bed was that I had caught bit of the Mexican belly by drinking tap water, or it might have been the ice in the Coke or something.

“Sir Alex did the fitness test in the morning, I was out in the sunshine, and he was saying ‘You canny let me down noo’. But I knew I wasn’t going to make it, I couldn’t get my breath.

“I lay in my bed watching the game and Gordon scored the goal and tried to jump the fence.”

GS: “The problem was that I thought there might be a moat behind the fence. It would just be my luck to leap over the hoarding and go another six foot doon.”

AM: “Well that was quick thinking, Gordon.”


Favourite personal moment playing for Scotland?


GS: “There wasn’t really that many great moments! I suppose, just for the occasion, it was when we played Brazil in ’82.

“You had these magnificent Brazilian supporters and the Scotland supporters all mingling together in 100 degree heat, and just lining up for that game sparks a lot of memories.

“I know we got beat 4-1, but we went in the lead against probably the best team never to win that trophy. That’s probably the most memorable occasion.

“One or two of us did say in the bus after it that Dave Narey had angered them by scoring. It became like The Blitz after that, shots raining in on Roughy from everywhere. We did enjoy that though, it was a great occasion.

“Alex would have had photographic evidence of all this, but unfortunately he kept taking pictures with a camera that didn’t have any spool in it!”

AM: “I thought it was one of those modern ones that don’t have a spool in it! I was ahead of my time!”

GS: “Aye you were 20 years ahead of your time!”

AM: “I don’t know why I didn’t put a patent on it that day.

“I was a spectator at that game as well, I was on the bench. I did get on for the last 10 minutes when Brazil were 3-1 up. Big Jock thought I could go on and win the game for us.

“I ended up in a back one with Roughy behind me. I’m thinking ‘Where have all the defenders gone?’ and they were all surrounding Zico trying to get his jersey. Souness and all the rest of the defenders were all around him because they knew the minutes were ticking down.

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“Adair waltzed through, I couldn’t get to him, and he’s pinged one in from about 25 yards, so it was 4-1.”

GS: “Aye we had about four men man-marking Zico with about 10 minutes to go. He was rotten!”

AM: “Aye there’s been some great memories, and some fantastic victories over the years as well.

“We beat France at Hampden, that was probably my best memory as a player, because I captained the team that night.

“We were staying at Gleneagles, and it was bucketing down. Because of the traffic we ended up late, and we only had about 10 minutes to warm up.

“We ended up beating a good French side 2-0. Mo Johnston was at the height of his form in these days.

“Captaining the country was such a pleasure, and that’s why it was such a good memory. It was a good game, we won, and it was on the way to qualification.”


One game that stands out as Scotland manager?


AM: “The Italy game. I really felt we could have beat them.

“We started off terribly, they scored in the opening minutes from a throw-in, so we weren’t fully concentrated at that important moment in the game.

“After that, and particularly in the second half, I felt we battered them.

“Barry Ferguson had a really good game against Andrea Pirlo, and so much so that I was watching Pirlo and thinking ‘That poor guy must be coming to the end of his career’. He ended up playing for about another 10 years!”

GS: “I nearly signed him as a striker at Coventry when he was at Inter Milan.”

AM: “Whit?”

GS: “Yeah. He was a striker and I went across and spoke to the director of football there at the time.

“We were trying to sign a centre-back, but he said ‘We’ve got this kid who is a striker and he’s no a bad player’. It was Pirlo.

“Obviously he wasn’t a striker, because he didn’t stay a striker too long. That was a good move no taking him.

“For me, just for atmosphere’s sake, it would be the game at Celtic Park when we played the Republic of Ireland and beat them 1-0.

“My wife was at the game and she said that everybody in the Press box jumped up when we scored, and that’s not easy.

“I don’t think I’ve seen an atmosphere like that in an international game, and it’s impossible to get that at Hampden because it’s too wide open.

“Mostly, you remember the atmospheres. It’s not the result, it’s the atmosphere you connect with, and that stays with you a long time.”


What's your favourite Sir Alex story?


GS: “Oh no, we could be here for a long time! We’re involved in a lot of them, me in particular.

“Let’s save that for another time.”

AM: “I think we have to take the fifth amendment there Gordon, don’t we? I’m sure we’ll be able to say things down the line.”

GS: “Yeah, there will be things popping up over the next couple of months, that’s for sure, but we’ll leave him out of it the now.”


How far can this Scotland team go in Euros?


GS: "We’ve got Croatia, and that’s hard. But you never know what the form of the teams are when you come to meet them. Who is fit?

“It’s the same with Scotland, who is playing well, are your most important players fit? You have to take that into consideration.

“We don’t know about support, and without the fans, we all know it isn’t the same game. It’s just not.

“Hopefully we can get fans back in the stadium. Scotland fans make any tournament a wee bit different.”

AM: “Let’s hope that happens, because the world would be glad to see the Tartan Army again after such a long absence.

“I do think the Czech Republic are on the up. That’s certainly been proven by their teams in Europe this year at Celtic Park for instance. Rangers have Slavia now too.

“I know that Scotland beat them at Hampden, and we beat their third-tier team in Prague, but you see some of their results in Europe and at international level and they seem to be on the up.

“Hopefully we are too, and it is about having our best team available. We’re looking hard to beat again..

“We need that hero striker we’ve had throughout the years with Kenny Dalglish, big Joe Jordan, Archibald, even Mark McGhee. Remember McGhee’s goal against England Gordon at Hampden?”

GS: “Oh yes, we talk about it a lot. He canny believe he got dropped after that and very rarely played again. He’s still suffering from it as we speak.”

AM: “What a goal to be fair.”

GS: “You could go through a lot of strikers, people who didn’t even get in the team. Graeme Sharp, Frank McAvennie, Frank McGarvey, you could go on and on.

“Steve will have to find a way about that. Does the striker add other things to the team? Can he hold the ball up, can he bring people in, how many assists has he made?

“If you’ve not got people who will score 20 goals a season, does that striker help your best players? At this moment, the best players are in the midfield, or at left-back.

“If we had a team of left-backs we would win the World Cup. If you could only play left-backs we’d be ok.

“Is the forward putting defenders under pressure so that they make mistakes and other people score? Does he win us free-kicks? All that comes into it.

“The system with Dykes has been shown so far to have been reasonably successful. There’s been draws, there’s been penalties, and we’re good at them. Let’s just go for penalties!”

AM: “That could be a good strategy Gordon!”