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 Waiting for a Bus: central defenders
Topic Originator: sammer  
Date:   Tue 16 Feb 17:28

I’ll finish with central defenders.

In the lead up to the 1982 World Cup Finals Jock Stein seemed spoiled for choice in central defence. Three club partnerships were flourishing at the time: the Hegarty/Narey duo was well established, as was the Miller/McLeish axis, while the Fife pairing of Allan Evans and Kenny McNaught had just helped Aston Villa lift the European Cup. Club combinations can obviously produce an instinctive understanding and the eventual winners Italy relied on Juventus centre backs Scirea and Gentile. The losing finalists West Germany went one better, choosing not just Stuttgart team mates but actual brothers, Bernd and Karlheinz Forster.

The Jock Stein of old would likely have settled on his best central defensive partnership and built the team around them but Stein by 1982 had lost some of his cavalier confidence. He also had available one of the most admired central defenders in Europe, Alan Hansen of Liverpool, whose composure and ability to carry the ball out of defence were ideally suited to the summer heat of Spain where keeping possession would be crucial. Stein had tried various combinations but one metaphor- ‘we wore our overalls to qualify but will put on a suit at the finals’- indicated Hansen would certainly play. Hansen was nothing if not a Sunday Best type of player but the problem of who to pair him with remained.

Surprisingly it was Allan Evans who lined up to face New Zealand in the opening fixture, reportedly because Stein felt the Kiwis were vulnerable at corners. They certainly struggled to deal with lively Scottish attacking play and conceded five goals but they also scored two goals of their own when long, looping passes caught our central defence out of position. These were to be the only goals New Zealand scored in the tournament and ultimately they knocked us out on goal difference.

Willie Miller replaced Evans for the Brazil game and like every other Scot on the night played manfully against a team that was simply far too good for us. Narey, deployed at right back, scored a memorable goal but was regularly overrun when Brazil overloaded on his side of the field. Then came the rubber with the USSR. Weak tackling inside our penalty area had allowed them back into the game before the horrific moment that ended our interest in the tournament. Hansen’s and Miller’s Last Tango in Malaga, colliding when they went for the same ball on the halfway line, remains high on the all-comers list of calamitous World Cup goals. Despite having strong central defenders on paper, we had conceded 8 goals in three games.

Hansen played only a handful of matches after the USSR debacle. The Miller/McLeish axis was restored and was still shoring up our defence near the end of the decade under different managers. We had decided to play in overalls and have rarely put on a good suit in the last forty years.

sammer
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 Re: Waiting for a Bus: central defenders
Topic Originator: GG Riva  
Date:   Tue 16 Feb 18:23

It's unbelievable that such a talented, cultured defender as Hansen only won 26 full caps. Add those to our most mercurial attacker, Jinky Johnstone and we don't even reach the half century? Something not right there.

Sammer, I hope you can be persuaded to continue with your Waiting for a Bus, series. They're very popular with so many on the forum and there's no lack of fine Scottish players who played more offensively.

Oh and don't forget our goalkeepers, in spite of the brickbats Jimmy Greaves used to throw.



Not your average Sunday League player.
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 Re: Waiting for a Bus: central defenders
Topic Originator: Buspasspar  
Date:   Tue 16 Feb 18:59

It was Sir Fergie who dropped him GG in favour of his Aberdeen stalwarts Milar and McLeish

We are forever shaped by the Children we once were
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 Re: Waiting for a Bus: central defenders
Topic Originator: GG Riva  
Date:   Tue 16 Feb 20:03

Quote:

Buspasspar, Tue 16 Feb 18:59

It was Sir Fergie who dropped him GG in favour of his Aberdeen stalwarts Milar and McLeish


Yes, I think Kenny Dalglish refused to go to Mexico 86 when he found out Hansen hadn't been included in the squad.



Not your average Sunday League player.
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 Re: Waiting for a Bus: central defenders
Topic Originator: sammer  
Date:   Tue 16 Feb 22:45

Scotland should have been better able to use the Rolls Royce skills of Alan Hansen but if you check the results we tended to concede rather too many goals when he played. John Toshack scored a hat trick on his debut. I think Jock Stein and later managers settled for second best, recognising that Scotland did not have a good enough framework to benefit from his ability.

The Scottish defenders that Hansen played with were accustomed to a centre half/sweeper system whereby one man set out to dominate the opposing central attacker whilst the other covered the space behind him. Hansen and his two partners at Liverpool- Phil Thompson and later Mark Lawrenson- did not play this way. They relied on speed and anticipation to break up attacks before carrying the ball forward, looking for a pass. They might lose challenges in the air or get caught square, but pure pace allowed them to recover.

Liverpool also employed a very tough midfield which put great pressure on opponents and protected the Liverpool defence. Scotland played creative wide players of good quality such as Gordon Strachan and John Robertson who were always good on the eye, but their Liverpool equivalents were the tenacious Jimmy ‘hard’ Case and Ray Kennedy.

The Scottish supporters felt that Hansen ‘couldn’t tackle a fish supper’ and got on his back, whereas the likes of Holton, McQueen, Gough and Colin Hendry were taken to their hearts.

sammer
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 Re: Waiting for a Bus: central defenders
Topic Originator: Parboiled  
Date:   Wed 17 Feb 11:46

I remember Lou Macari rubbishing the home grown Scots prior to a match v England at Wembley, particularly sneering of the defensive partnership who went on to snuff out the English goal threat with no great breaking of sweat.
McLeish and Miller knew each other inside out and were a very reliable pairing. sometimes a solid partnership in central defence is more effective than individual talent

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