Starting today, the ECHO’s Chris Beesley begins a daily series of articles on Everton and the World Cup to run throughout the tournament in Qatar.
Over 30 players who were with Everton at the time have now turned out for their countries in the World Cup finals. But the Blues’ first representative in the tournament turned out to be making his last international appearance, a mere fortnight after he’d completed his big move to Goodison Park.
Right-back Alex Parker – who Everton legend Alex Young proclaimed to be the best in his position in the British Isles – holds the distinction of being the club’s inaugural World Cup player but then almost immediately fell foul of the Scottish Football Association’s reluctance to pick ‘Anglos’, their pool of talent who had been lured south of the border.
Despite being just 22 at the time, Parker, who had joined Everton from Falkirk – where he is still widely-considered to be their greatest-ever player – on May 27 1958 for £17,500 never added to the 15th and final Scotland appearance in their 3-2 defeat to Paraguay in front of 11,665 fans at Norrkoping’s Idrottsparken, and his Irish wife Irene would keep him grounded by reminding him she won more caps playing hockey for the Emerald Isle (21) and also played at Wembley!
The decision seemed to sum up the arbitrary approach of the SFA at the time and it was telling that despite Parker going on to be a star performer for the Blues, Scotland would be captained by another right-back, Rangers’ Eric Cadlow, who was capped no fewer than 40 times in the Everton man’s position, for their infamous 9-3 drubbing against England in 1961.
Scotland’s policy towards the World Cup, before going to Sweden in 1958, seemed almost just as capricious. Like the rest of the ‘Home Nations’, they did not enter the first three tournaments in the 1930s as they had withdrawn from FIFA due to a dispute over ‘broken-time’ payments (financial compensation for so-called amateurs missing work) and would not rejoin until 1946.
The 1949/50 edition of the British Home Championship then served as a qualifying group for the 1950 finals but the SFA announced they’d only go to Brazil if they won the competition and stood by their decision after a 1-0 defeat to England at Hampden Park condemned them to runners-up spot. Their stubbornness – despite pleas from their own players which even received support from opposition captain Billy Wright and his Three Lions team-mates, was later described by legendary football journalist Brian Glanville as showing “baffling insularity and pique.”
It was the same again ahead of the 1954 finals in Switzerland as Scotland finished second behind England but this time the powers that be gave the go-ahead for the team to take part in the finals. However, despite competitors being allowed to name 22-man squads, Scotland only took 13 players – even though SFA dignitaries travelled in numbers, accompanied by their wives – and their website now quotes the preparation as being “atrocious” with manager Andy Beattie, who had only been hired in February in addition to his ‘day job’ in charge of Huddersfield Town, resigning just hours before their 7-0 mauling at the hands of reigning champions Uruguay.
Scotland’s plans for the 1958 finals were hampered by tragedy with Manchester United manager Matt Busby due to have been at the helm for the tournament but he was still recovering from the severe injuries he suffered in the Munich air disaster four months earlier, ensuring trainer Dawson Walker took charge instead. With the aforementioned Cadlow playing at right-back instead of Everton new boy Parker, Scotland earned a credible 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia on their long-awaited World Cup debut at the Arosvallen in Vasteras but that would prove the high point of their time in Scandinavia.
The Scots sent unused squad players Tommy Docherty and Archie Robertson – both future managers – to watch their next opponents Paraguay, who were playing France at the same time, and despite the South Americans being walloped 7-3, the pair reported they were a “rough, fit and good team.” Walker promptly chose to ignore this advice and despite bringing Parker into the side, left out some of his more combative players for the 3-2 defeat to Paraguay and following another loss, 2-1 to France, Scotland would be knocked out in the first round, the stage of the tournament they have still never progressed from.
Despite being brought to Everton by compatriot Ian Buchan, in what proved to be a double deal along with Falkirk left-winger…