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Alistair ("Ally") Reid MacLeod (26 February 1931 – 1 February 2004) was a Scottish professional football player. He is perhaps better known for his time as a football manager, which included being in charge of Scotland at the 1978 FIFA World Cup.

Early years

Alistair Reid MacLeod was born in the south side of Glasgow on 26 February 1931. His family lived at Clydebank for a while but the house was bombed. At length they settled in Mount Florida, near Hampden and the ground of Third Lanark, for which team young Ally signed while still at school. He made swift dashes up the left wing. His distinctive running action earned him the nickname "Noddy".

Playing career

MacLeod started his playing career at Third Lanark as a provisional signing as a schoolboy in 1947. He made his first team debut against Stirling Albion at Cathkin Parkmarker on 6 November 1949.

Despite Stirling being victorious 4-2 MacLeod frequently joked that his was a debut with a difference - although he did not set the local heather on fire, someone else did! 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 and race out as four fire engines had arrived to tackle the fire.

In 1953, MacLeod was in the Thirds side which trounced Alloa Athletic in the League Cup opener, 10-0. Sitting 8-0 up, MacLeod's team mates' main objective was to get him on the scoresheet. He had set up five goals but had missed several sitters himself. A left foot rocket shot, and a simple tap in took Thirds tally to 10. He joined the Royal Scots for National Service but was still able to turn out for the Thirds.

MacLeod 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 on. He spent only six weeks at St Mirren before moving to English team Blackburn Roversmarker.

Managed by fellow Scot Dally Duncan MacLeod 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 along with the PFA steward Jimmy Hill to help abolish the maximum wage, but when subsequently his promised wage increase was not forthcoming, while other players in the team were raised from £20 to £25 per week, he entered into discussions with Hibernian. When Blackburn realised that they were going to lose him to Hibs they matched their offer with an increase from £20 to £25. MacLeod, having already accepted Hibs' offer, felt he could not go back on his word, so left Blackburn to go back to Scotland.

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, with no major honours won.

Club management

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 attendance record with 25,225 watching a 2-1 success over Rangers F.C. In 1973, MacLeod was named Ayr's "Citizen of the Year".

In 1975, after nine years at Ayr, he moved to Aberdeen where he guided them to a League Cup final success over Celtic and second place in the Premier Division.

International management

After such success with Ayr and Aberdeen, in May 1977 the Scottish Football Association appointed him manager of the Scotland national football team. He introduced himself to the squad with the blunt statement: "My name is Ally MacLeod and I am a winner." In his first year in charge, he ensured qualification for the 1978 World Cup in Argentinamarker from a group containing Wales and the then European champions, Czechoslovakia.

Scotland's World Cup campaign started on a high, with MacLeod declaring to the world that he would be back with "at least a medal", to a background of fans singing "We're on the march with Ally's Army". Scottish comedian Andy Cameron recorded a version of this chant as a single, "Ally's Tartan Army", which reached Number 6 on the UK charts just before the World Cup.

Qualification was particularly sweet for Scotland since, for the second World Cup in succession, Scotland had achieved what their traditional rivals England had not. Defeat against England (who had fallen to MacLeod's team the previous year) in the Home Championships of 1978 was taken to mean little. Spirits remained sky-high as 25,000 people came to Hampden Parkmarker to watch the squad circle the ground in an open-top bus prior to their departure for Argentina. Prestwick Airportmarker was packed with supporters seeing the team off. When a journalist asked him "What do you plan to do after the World Cup?" MacLeod replied: "Retain it." [100661]

There had been some murmurs of discontent concerning MacLeod's selections, and some observers were worried by the absence through injury of 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 Don Masson missed a penalty and in general failed to play to their potential. As MacLeod 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. It was then revealed that the winger Willie Johnston had taken a cold tablet which contained a banned substance, fencamfamin. He was sent home.

MacLeod, 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 game with Iran finished a 1-1 draw, after an even worse display by the Scots. They then needed to beat the Netherlands, one of the tournament favourites, by three clear goals, to qualify.

MacLeod gave Graeme Souness his first game of the World Cup and was rewarded with a much-improved team performance. 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 FIFAmarker), to make the score 3-1 to Scotland, qualification to the next phase at last looked possible. Three minutes later, though, the Dutch pulled a goal back, the game ended 3-2 and Scotland were eliminated on goal difference. The Netherlands proceeded to the final, where they lost to Argentina.

MacLeod 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 MacLeod'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 MacLeod 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?" MacLeod 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."

Return to club management

His subsequent managerial career, which included spells at Motherwell (1979 - 1981), Airdrie (1984-1985), a return to Ayr (1986-1989) and Dumfriesmarker club Queen of the South, continued into the 1990s (in 1992 he played one game for Queens' reserve team, scoring a goal from a penalty at the age of 61), 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".

In July 2003, at Hampden Parkmarker, he was presented with a crystal decanter in appreciation of his services to the national team and to Scottish football.

He died in 2004, aged 72, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

References

  1. [1]


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