It was the game that launched future Scotland captain Paul McStay to prominence, while England’s Paul Rideout captured national attention with his hat-trick. They were the stars of their countries’ Under-16 teams, and as such, carried the hopes of future generations.
Annual schoolboy matches between England and Scotland had taken place since 1911, with the only break being during the Second World War. On Saturday 7th June 1980, a 69,000 crowd and many millions more watching on television saw a pulsating match between the two rivals’ best schoolboy players.
The game was for the Dentyne Trophy, put up by the sponsors Halls Hudnut, makers of Dentyne chewing gum. The 45,000 seats in Wembley had sold out by the 1st of March, such was the demand to see the game. Although many Scots had taken flags and banners they were heavily outnumbered by the thousands of England flags as the two teams took to the field.
Scotland winger John Sludden spoke to the Herald in 2009 about the experience. “We had to stand in there for about 15 minutes waiting for the game to start,” Sludden recalled. “When you walked out everybody had a flag. There must have been about 70-75,000 people there. All our guys had their schools there to support. There were about four minibuses just from my school, St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk.”
On Scotland’s right wing was John Robertson, later to write his name into the record books at Heart of Midlothian. “I remember it well because it is the only time I ever played there,” he told Archie MacPherson in the book ‘Flower of Scotland – A Football Odyssey’. “It was a baking hot day which would have melted you, and I know you might not believe this, but before the game the president of the English FA came into our dressing room and said to us that if we were going to beat his side then he hoped it would be by a big score, like 5-4, in an entertaining game.”
The Victory Shield that season, competed for by the four home nations, had been shared by Scotland and England, both level on four points. However, England had played three games to Scotland’s two. Northern Ireland were forced to pull out of the tournament due to The Troubles without having played their match against Scotland. The game between Scotland and England at Fir Park, Motherwell had resulted in a 2-1 win for the Scots. A scoreline the English were determined to avenge at Wembley.
In a 2005 interview with The Scotsman Robertson recalled, “There was a fair bit of needle about the match. The chat coming from the English camp was that they would have won the European Championship if they had been there.” The young Scots side had won the inaugural Under-15 European Championships in Montaigu, France earlier that year, beating the host nation in the final. The English boys declined to enter. “It all just added to the sense that we were involved in something special. It was an absolute dream for all of us to be representing Scotland against England at Wembley in any case, but there was an added incentive for us to make sure we beat them again.”
The match kicked off at 3.20pm and, as was typical of schoolboy internationals, was 40 minutes each half. Scotland had the first shot on goal after four minutes when Alistair Dick saw his effort saved by Peter Lara in the England goal. A minute later McStay ended a good team move by firing just past the post.
The English players combined well with a series of good passing moves, while Scotland tended to rely on the individuality of players such as McStay, Sludden and Dick.
The opening goal came in the 20th minute when a neat cross from Paul Wimbleton found Rideout who flicked the ball past Andrew Bruce in the Scots goal with the outside of his boot. Just moments later McStay found the equaliser. England could only clear a corner to the edge of their box and when the ball was played back in McStay latched on to it and fired in from ten yards out. The Celtic ‘S’ form signing would be involved again in the next goal, but this time, it was his mistake that allowed Rideout to burst through, shrug off a tackle, take the ball round Bruce and slot home from eight yards to put England 2-1 up just before the break.
Within a minute of the restart, McStay made amends by equalising once again. The ball was played out to Dick on the left. The St Modan’s High pupil skipped past Mick McGinty’s challenge and made for the byline where he cut the ball back to the edge of the six-yard box for the Scots captain to level the scores.
On 47 minutes the English defence was far too casual with the ball at the edge of their own penalty area. Robertson intercepted when Doug McLure attempted to pass the ball out. As McClure and his team-mates fought to regain possession McStay won the ball strongly in the tackle. He worked it through to Sludden on the right who turned and placed a low drive into the far corner to take the Scots into the lead for the first time in the match. Minutes later England thought they had equalised when Wimbleton headed into the net, only to find the referee rule the goal out.
With the game now really coming alive another goal wasn’t long in coming as the ball was chipped through to Dick who fired it over the advancing Lara with his left foot to make it 4-2 on 49 minutes. England got back into the match when Jones slipped the ball through to Rideout on the halfway line. The big striker ran on for twenty yards before glancing up and hitting an unstoppable shot from almost 40 yards to make the score 4-3. His casual acknowledgement, raising his left arm and slowly walking back to the halfway line suggesting that type of shooting was commonplace for the Swindon signing.
On 62 minutes the ball was chipped in to Sludden who volleyed past Lara from close range to restore the Scots’ two goal advantage. In the dying moments of the game Paul Brown crossed for Wimbleton to head in at the far post to make the final score England 4 Scotland 5.
The game was also notable for an unsavoury incident. As the ball was placed for a free-kick in the Scotland penalty area there was a sudden pitch invasion by four fans. One of them kicked the ball away and swung a foot at a Scotland player as he ran past. ITV cameras refused to show the invaders being pursued by police, in an editorial move, which was original at the time, but common place these days. “We are not going to give these louts the publicity they want,” commentator Brian Moore said. “They are spoiling what has been a marvellous game of football.” The match came just a month after the infamous Celtic-Rangers Scottish Cup final at Hampden. “I know we showed the scenes after the Hampden Cup final last month, but that was different,” Peter Coppock of ITV Sport told the Glasgow Herald. “There was a full-scale riot at Hampden, whereas the young fans at Wembley were just showing off. Our director felt that to give them coverage might just encourage the thousands of young fans watching to copy them. We did not want to mar what is a great gala day for schoolchildren all over England and Scotland. We don’t have a firm policy on the matter but we do try to play it down where possible, I’m sure our Scottish viewers will not see it as a case of double standards being applied.”
The game was held up for ten minutes before the police, assisted by the 5′ 11” Paul Rideout, apprehended the men and led them from the field.
Celtic boss Billy McNeill, with three of his ‘S’ signings in the Scotland side, was one of the many club managers at the game. “The Scots boys were very impressive and showed a great deal of maturity,” he told the Daily Record after the match. “England were the better side in the first-half when they went in with a 2-1 lead, but our lads dominated after that.”
In the 1996 video ‘Paul McStay – Maestro’, Paul’s father, John, recalled the day. “There was 72,000 that day, English kids, I think we went down with three busloads. Actually, his mother and I went down on the coach from the Holycross School, full of kids and what they were going to do, ‘we were going to beat England and out-sing them and outshout them.’ They got the fright of their lives when they seen hundreds of English buses, but the performance of the boys was magnificent the all-round performance. And Paul scored two great goals.”
Also in that video, Billy McNeill said of McStay, “I remember going down to Wembley to see him playing in that magnificent schoolboys international, and in great company, he still looked a real piece of class.”
Scotland manager Bill Harrower told the Daily Mirror, “Paul can be another Duncan Edwards.”
English Schools FA Chairman Ted Austin, confirming Robertson’s recollection, commented to the Daily Express, “I told the English lads I wanted them to win 5-4 and I told the Scots boys that if they had to win to do it 5-4 for the cameras.”
“What an advert for football,” England manager Jim Morrow said. “Scotland had a lot of skill and ability. McStay is very good and didn’t fool around in front of goal.”
The scoreline was something of a relief to Scottish goalkeeper Andy Bruce, who said in an interview with the Rangers match programme in 1981, “Scotland won 5-4 in a tremendous match, but I made a bad mistake at one of the goals and that unnerved me for a while. Thankfully the boys up front were banging them in.”
The Scottish Assistant Manager that day was Les Donaldson. A goalkeeper in his playing days he had himself played for Scotland Schoolboys against England, in 1966, alongside Kenny Dalglish in a 1-1 draw. He told the Scotsman in 2005, “It was a fantastic day and the fact that so many people still talk about it tells you everything. The team we had that year were just wonderful, we had a great balance right throughout the squad. It was like a club team really, and the spirit among the boys was incredible. I remember looking at their faces before the game and feeling sure we were going to win. Even during the interval, they all had their heads up in the dressing room. They still had no doubt they would win. I remember telling them they might get tired on the Wembley pitch but just look down at the lion rampant on their jersey to keep them going.”
In 2011 Ally Dick commented to The Scotsman, “I had a ton of interest before that game, clubs phoning me up every night, but after it, the amount doubled. When I left school I had something like 42 job offers.” The Daily Record sent a reporter round to his house in the days after the game, snapping him in homely pose helping his mum with her washing. An offer of a trial from Arsenal had just come through the letterbox, while as reporter John Docherty took his leave a call from Tottenham Hotspur had just come through.
Archie MacPherson wrote in his book about the belief and hope for the years ahead the victory provided. ‘We witnessed a Scottish performance that seemed to be no more than a confirmation of the innate ability of succeeding generations to produce equal amounts of skill and endeavour. They were full of class and promise for the future. This was a team that not only achieved a memorable victory that day but executed a clean sweep the same season, beating all opposition.’
For the Maestro video McStay recalled, “Amazing, the response we got when we came back up the road. All the lads were inundated with press…all wanting to know about the game, cos I think it made such a big impact at the time. Winning at Wembley was a special moment.”
In the 1992 video ‘The John Robertson Story’, Robertson spoke about his memories of the game. “It was a cracking match,” he said. “Paul McStay scored a couple of great goals for us…and who can forget the famous Paul Rideout goal when he cut in and crashed it from 40 yards as part of his hat-trick. It was just one of these great matches, and it was a pity on the day that somebody had to lose. Obviously, from a Scotland point of view, we were delighted. Even to this day people still talk about that game. Every schoolboy international that comes up with Scotland and England they always remember the 1980 match.”
England – P Lara (Heston Comprehensive School), M McGinty (Bishop Ullathorne School), D McClure (Edgware School) (captain), D Byrom (St Augustine’s School), W Donald (Furze Platt School), P Wimbleton (Broomfield School), D Willis (Benfield School), P Rideout (Kingsdown School), G Parris (Seven Kings High School), R Jones (Woodlands School)
Sub: P Brown (Washwood Heath School) for Jones
Scotland – A Bruce (Craigmount High, Edinburgh), E MacDonald (Belshill Academy), A O’Connor (St Ambrose High, Coatbridge), C Plenderleith (Currie High, Edinburgh), R Coyle (St Gerard’s Secondary School, Glasgow), P Nicholas (Holyrood Secondary, Glasgow), J Robertson (Portobello High), P McStay (Holycross High, Hamilton) (captain), J Sludden (St Mungo’s High, Falkirk), S Rae (Musselburgh Grammar), A Dick (St Modan’s High, Stirling)
Subs: C Currie (Wishaw High) for Nicholas, D McKay (Lourdes Secondary) for Dick
Referee – M J Taylor, Deal
What Happened Next?
A handful of those who played went on to become famous names, while many others carved out long careers in the game, inevitably a few drifted out of football.
Peter Lara – Was on the books of Chelsea, moving on to play for Staines Town for a number of years. Retired through injury at 29 going on to work in the financial sector.
Mick McGinty – Signed schoolboy forms for Coventry City, but failed to make the breakthrough.
Doug McClure – Began as an apprentice at Queen’s Park Rangers, earning a full contract in August 1982. However, he didn’t make a first-team appearance and signed for Exeter City in November 1984. He only played one game at St James Park before heading for Wimbledon, Peterborough United and Crewe Alexandria, where, combined, he made a handful of first-team appearances. In the second half of the 80s he played with Wealdstone, Enfield and Fisher Athletic.
David Byrom – A schoolboy signing with Manchester City he signed with Blackburn Rovers, but left without playing a first team game. He then signed with Fourth Division Stockport County where he made four appearances.
Warren Donald – Signed professional terms with West Ham United making two league appearances before joining Northampton Town. He made more than 200 appearances for the Cobblers winning the Fourth Division in 1986/87. He went into the Conference with Colchester United, helping them back to the Football League in 1992. He played for a number of non-league teams including Kettering Town and Nuneaton Borough until retiring in 2004 with Stamford.
Paul Wimbleton – He started his career with Portsmouth, but after a number of first-team matches a knee injury saw his release from the club. He joined Cardiff City where he was an ever-present in 1986-87. He helped the Bluebirds win promotion to the Third Division alongside lifting the Welsh Cup in 1988. He went on to Bristol City, Exeter and Swansea City. Wimbleton then embarked on a nomadic career playing in South Africa, Ireland, China, Hong Kong and the USA. He now runs his own coaching academy, Three Lions Coaching, in New Jersey.
David Willis – A schoolboy signing with Burnley he won an apprentice contract with Newcastle United, signing professional terms in 1982. He played in the Northern Leagues of English football from 1983 to 2000. He then worked as a talent scout for Sheffield Wednesday. He currently works as first team opposition scout for Aston Villa.
Paul Rideout – The most successful of the side he began his professional career with Swindon Town, his impressive goalscoring form earning him a move to Aston Villa. While still only 21 he went to Bari in Italy, returning to England after three seasons to play with Southampton. After a short stint with Notts County he crossed the border to win the double with Rangers. A five-year spell with Everton was capped with the winning goal in the 1995 FA Cup final. He played in China and America before ending his playing career with Tranmere Rovers in 2002. He now works as a coach in America.
George Parris – Played the majority of his career for West Ham United, featuring in over 200 league games and earning a testimonial in 1995. He also played for Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion. In 2005 he published an autobiography that chronicled his descent into, and recovery from, gambling addiction. He currently works as the Technical Director for Girls Centre of Excellence at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Robert Jones – Signed with Manchester City but left without making an appearance for the first eleven. Joined Leicester City in 1982 scoring once in two appearances in their promotion winning season. Played 13 times in the First Division over three seasons before joining Walsall in Division Three, but couldn’t break into the team. Moved on to play in the lower leagues with Kidderminister Harriers, Burton Albion, VS Rugby and Burton Albion finishing in 1993 with Ravenstone.
Paul Brown – A Birmingham boy he began his career with Aston Villa. With no luck breaking into the first team he moved on to Leicester City in September 1982. He only played one game at Filbert Street, an FA Cup tie against Notts County in January 1983. Released at the end of that season he moved on to Nuneaton Borough, Stourbridge, Alvechurch and Willenhall Town.
Andy Bruce – Made three first-team appearances for Rangers, winning a Glasgow Cup medal in one of them. After a spell on loan at Partick he joined Hearts where he found first-team appearances hard to come by. In 1988 Bruce retired from the game to join the police in North Berwick.
Eddie MacDonald – Signed for Clyde, but failed to make the grade professionally.
Austin O’Connor – Won the South East Counties League and the English Youth Cup with Norwich City in 1983. Went on to work in the Scottish Prison Service.
Colin Plenderleith – An ‘S’ signing with Hearts he signed professionally in July 1981, but left three years later, without playing a first team game.
Ronnie Coyle – Signed for Celtic, making his first team debut in 1985. He left Parkhead, first on loan, then signing for Middlesborough in 1987. He arrived at Raith Rovers the following year staying to become part of the League Cup winning team of 1994/95. He also had spells with Ayr United, Albion Rovers and East Fife. Tragically he passed away from leukaemia, aged only 46, in 2011.
Paul Nicholas – He had signed ‘S’ forms for Celtic, joining his older cousin Charlie, who had just started to break through into the first team. Paul wasn’t as fortunate and was released. Scotland youth coach Andy Roxburgh recommended him for a soccer scholarship at Harvard University in Boston. After leaving university he then went on to work for a major merchant bank in New York.
John Robertson – Played over 500 league games in two spells with Hearts, becoming their record league goalscorer and winning the Scottish Cup in 1998. He also played with Newcastle United, Dundee and Livingston. He won 16 full caps for Scotland, scoring three times. Managed a number of clubs including Hearts and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Currently back at Hearts as Under-17 coach.
Paul McStay – A one-club man he played for Celtic over 600 times winning three league championships and four Scottish Cups. McStay currently sits fourth in the list of Scotland’s most capped players, having played 76 times for his country scoring 9 goals. He now runs a software company in Australia.
John Sludden – Signed with Celtic, but his only first-team appearance was the 1982 Glasgow Cup final where they beat Rangers 2-1, a match in which Ronnie Coyle and Paul McStay also played. He went on to play for a number of sides in Scotland including St Johnstone, Airdrie, Ayr United and Kilmarnock, finishing his playing career with Bo’ness United in 2001. Currently the manager of Lowland League side East Stirlingshire.
Stewart Rae – With a host of Scottish clubs as well as Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion looking at him he signed up at Hibs just two days before the Wembley match. He travelled with the first-team on a pre-season Highland tour a few weeks later, coming on as a substitute against Brora Rangers before he had turned 16. He failed to make the grade at Easter Road, going on to play amateur in Fife. He then emigrated to South Africa.
Alistair Dick – With a number of teams after him he plumped for Tottenham Hotspur. He made his debut at 16, becoming Spurs’ youngest player ever at that time. In a five-year spell, he only made 17 league appearances but did play a part in the 1984 UEFA Cup final victory over Anderlecht. He made a surprise move to Johan Cryuff’s Ajax in 1986. He only played 11 times in the first team and was on the bench, alongside Dennis Bergkamp, as Ajax lost the 1988 European Cup Winners’ Cup final to Mechelen. He played out his career in Australia and South Africa finishing it off with one appearance for Alloa. He never played for the full Scotland team, but, alongside Paul McStay, he was part of the 1982 European Championship winning Under-18 side.
Calum Currie – Left Fir Park Boys Club to sign ‘S’ forms with Motherwell but didn’t play a first team game.
Derek McKay – Another ‘S’ form signing at Celtic, but he left to go to Birmingham City Boys Club. He made 36 first team appearances over three seasons for Queen’s Park before joining St Johnstone. In Perth, he scored 7 league goals in 15 games in the 1986/87 season.