The Wembley Wizards
When Scotland met England at Wembley Stadium in the Home International Championship of season 1927-28, no one expected anything of the Scottish team. History has a habit of throwing up suprises though and the Scots succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The Scottish team that played that day will forever be known as 'The Wembley Wizards', here is the story behind it.
The Home International Championship was a tournament played between the international football teams of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was played mainly at the time that the sport of football was not as advanced around the world, but that soon changed and the Home International Championship was soon surpassed by the wanting to play against foreign teams. This is not a history of the ‘tournament’ though; it is a look at one of the matches from the 1927-28 tournament that has gone down in history for many reasons.
(Commemorative football - Image Source)
Scotland started the 1927-28 Home International Championship badly. Their first match was against Wales, at Wrexham, and despite the Scots scoring twice in the first 15 minutes, the Welsh clawed their way back into the game to seal a 2-2 draw. The selectors were not happy and many changes were made for the next game, at Firhill, Glasgow, against Northern Ireland. The changes did not have the desired effect though and Scotland lost the match by 1-0 – the score would have been higher had it not been for the goalkeeping heroics of Elisha Scott. Next up was England, expectations weren’t high.
The match against England was to be played at Wembley; if playing away from home was bad enough, the Scots current form made matters worse. The selectors had two warm up games to choose a team for the England game, no one could have predicted how things would turn out.
The first warm up match was held at Ibrox on 10th March when the Scottish League met the English League, over 60,000 fans turned up to see the Scottish League lose by 6 goals to 3. Only three days later, the second warm up match took place at Firhill, where a Homes Scots (Scottish players who played in Scotland) team took on an Anglo Scots (Scottish players who played in England) team. From the two warm up matches, the selectors chose the team for the important match against England – the choice simply astonished the fans.
When the team was announced on 21st March, a crowd had gathered outside the offices of the SFA at Carlton Place – the crowd were somewhat bamboozled by the team choice. There was 8 Anglo-Scots, two of which had never been capped before, another one had only played once before. The forward line were all small in height and the centre-forward hadn’t played football in two months. Notable players such as Cunningham, McPhail and Meiklehjohn of Rangers were left out; Jimmy McGrory and Willie McStay of Celtic had also been left out. The full list of players (and club they played for) picked for the England match were as follows:
Harkness (Queen’s Park), Nelson (Cardiff City), Law (Chelsea), Gibson (Aston Villa), Bradshaw (Bury), McMullan (Manchester City), Jackson (Huddersfield), Dunn (Hibs), Gallagher (Newcastle), James (Preston) and Morton (Rangers)
The fans initial reaction may have been negative but that did not stop them from travelling south to Wembley stadium to watch the match. It was a decision they would not regret.
On the day of the match, London seemed to be draped in tartan; bagpipes could be heard all over the city. It had rained down heavily on the morning of the match but that didn’t dampen the spirits at all. As the fans clambered into Wembley, the Duke of York and his guest, King Amanullah of Afghanistan were presented to the players; the national anthems were played; it was soon time for referee Willie Bell to get the game started.
(The Scottish team takes the field - Image Source)
In the very first minute of the match England’s Billy Smith hit a shot that beat the Scottish goalkeeper, it rebounded off the post and was cleared to safety; the Scots had had a lucky escape. Only one minute later, the lucky escape had turned into something more, the Scots raced up the field, a cross was put into the box and Alec Jackson got his head to it first and sent the ball into the net – the Scots were 1-0 up. Just before half-time, Alec James scored Scotland’s second goal.
The Scottish fans were amazed and jubilant at their teams first-half performance but their was still a feeling that something might go wrong, surely England would ‘stamp their authority’ in the second half. No!
On the 65th minute, Jackson scored his second goal of the match to put the Scots 3 goals up. Within another 10 minutes, James scored his second to put the Scots 4 goals up. As the fans celebrated around the ground, the game continued with Scotland in the ascendancy. With only 5 minutes left on the clock, Jackson hit a volley into the back of the England net – unbelievably, the Scots were 5-0 up. England pulled a goal back in the last minute, when inside-forward Kelly scored, but it was nothing more than a consolation goal.
Not only had the Scots beaten their biggest rivals, they had done so away from home. The 5-1 final score to Scotland remains the largest victory of Scotland over England at Wembley stadium – it was also the first time Scotland had even won at Wembley. Alec Jackson became the first (and only ever) player to score a hat-trick for Scotland at Wembley.
All in all, it was a famous victory for Scotland, one that has gone down in history. It is no surprise that the Scottish team that day earned the nickname of ‘The Wembley Wizards’.