Scotland: Top players never to be capped by their country

By Jordan Elgott & Nick McPheatBBC Scotland
Uncapped XI graphic

Can you imagine Andy Robertson never winning an international cap, despite playing a crucial role in Liverpool's Champions League win?

How about Scott Brown captaining Celtic to title after title, but still not being given the honour of representing his country?

The idea seems preposterous, but if we look back throughout the 20th century, this was the bizarre reality for some of Scotland's most talented footballers.

Here BBC Sport Scotland looks at some of the Scots to never make a senior international appearance.

Charlie Shaw (1906-1925)

One of the earlier and most glaring omissions. Shaw, a goalkeeper standing at just 5ft 6in, is regarded as one of Celtic's finest ever. Signed from Queens Park Rangers in 1913, he conceded just 14 goals in 38 games in his debut season, earning 26 clean sheets.

His most remarkable record, however, was for the longest period of time without conceding a goal. During that debut season, Shaw was not beaten for a staggering 1287 minutes of football. It remained a British record for more than 100 years until being broken by Edwin van der Sar.

Hughie Ferguson (1916-1930)

A whopping 284 goals in fewer than 300 games for Motherwell gave Ferguson a scoring record most strikers can only dream of.

He was the Scottish top-flight's leading scorer in three separate seasons before leaving Motherwell in 1925 for Cardiff City. There, he won the Charity Shield, the Welsh Cup and the FA Cup, scoring the winner as Arsenal were edged out in the final.

Bobby Cox (1956-1969)

For well over a decade, Cox was a crucial part of a celebrated Dundee team. The right-back broke through in 1956 and became captain in 1960.

On the last day of the 1961-62 season, Dundee secured their first and only Scottish league title with Cox wearing the armband for the club he grew up supporting. The following season he led them to the semi-final of the European Cup and then the same stage of the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1964.

He retired in 1969 as a one-club man.

Sir Alex Ferguson (1957-1974)

Alex Ferguson in action for Falkirk against Rangers in 1969
Alex Ferguson in action for Falkirk against Rangers in 1969

He may be better known for his managerial exploits, but at one point the Govan-born icon was one of the hottest striking properties in the Scottish game.

After successful spells at Queen's Park, St Johnstone and Dunfermline Athletic, he was signed by Rangers in 1967 for £65,000 - a then-record fee between two Scottish clubs.

Ferguson would spend two years at Ibrox before moving to Falkirk, then Ayr United. However, he failed to earn a cap for the nation he later managed, largely down to the strength Scotland had in that area. He does have 49 trophies as a manager to make up for it though...

Harry Hood (1962-1978)

"Harry has all it takes; control, physique, know-how... but he must force himself into the action," said then-Celtic manager Jock Stein, who signed Hood from Clyde for £40,000 in 1969.The forward could play across the front line, create from deep, and was equally adept with either foot. He scored 89 goals in 174 appearances for Celtic before finishing his career with spells at Motherwell, Queen of the South and San Antonio Thunder.His only senior international involvement was in an unofficial Scotland XI world tour, never receiving a cap despite his undoubted ability.

John McGovern (1965-1985)

As far as reputations go, being known as Brian Clough's go-to player isn't a bad one. McGovern worked under Clough at Hartlepool United, then followed him to Derby County, where he would win the Second Division title in 1969 and the League Championship title in 1972.

Clough then took McGovern to Leeds United in his infamously short spell at Elland Road, before the midfielder moved with the manager to Nottingham Forest, where he won pretty much everything.

He captained the club to successive European Cups, and also won the League Cup, League Championship, Charity Shield and European Super Cup. Somehow, he only played for Scotland at youth level…

Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern won a European Cup but not a Scotland cap - 1979
Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern won a European Cup but not a Scotland cap

Hamish McAlpine (1966-1989)

Over the course of 22 seasons, McAlpine represented Dundee United, Montrose, Dunfermline, Raith Rovers and Arbroath. The goalkeeper won two Scottish League Cups and a Premier Division title. McAlpine was also voted Football Writers' Player of the Year in 1985 at the age of 37.

He was no ordinary goalkeeper. The four goals he scored are more than any other keeper in the history of Scottish football. Three of those were penalties, with his final effort scored at the age of 39 from his own penalty area.

Billy Stark (1975-1994)

Midfielder Stark started with local club St Mirren after impressing then-manager Ferguson while on trial. During eight years in Paisley, he amassed over 250 appearances before being reunited with his boss at Aberdeen in 1983.

Stark spent four years at Pittodrie before a successful spell with Celtic under Billy McNeill, followed by stints with Kilmarnock and Hamilton Academical.

John 'Bomber' Brown (1979-1997)

Graeme Souness brought midfielder Brown to Rangers from Dundee and the player found his home in the centre of defence.

He was a regular in the Ibrox club's domestic treble-winning season of 1992-93, and many feel he should have lined up alongside team-mate Richard Gough for the national team. Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown did not see it that way, and Brown ended his career without winning a cap.

Neale Cooper (1979-1998)

From sitting on the sidelines at Pittodrie as a ball-boy, to lifting the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1983, Cooper's Aberdeen career was a fairytale.

During that run to glory in Gothenburg, Ferguson's side knocked out Bayern Munich, prompting a German legend to share his views on the midfielder. "The young Neale Cooper is the closest thing I have seen to me at that age," said Franz Beckenbauer.

Yet Cooper, who also played for Aston Villa and Rangers and made the all-star XI at the 1983 Under-20 World Cup, only appeared for his country at youth level.

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