With such a rich footballing pedigree, it is surprising to think that it has taken Scotland nearly 25 years to qualify for a major football tournament. Yet the Tartan Army will be able to do themselves proud at the upcoming Euros with the likes of Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Scott McTominay ready to lead their team forward. They follow in the footsteps of some of the most revered names in football as they look to showcase Scottish football to the world. With that in mind, here are the eight greatest Scottish footballers of all time.
Greatest Scottish footballers ever
If you ask any Rangers fan for the greatest player ever to play at Ibrox, many would tell you that Jim Baxter is at the top of their list. Known as a primarily left sided player, Baxter thrived for Rangers during the 1960’s, leading The Gers to successive domestic trebles in the 1962/63 and 1963/64 seasons. He was an excellent passer and was able to rally an entire team to success even when they looked beat. Whilst his name may not be known by many fans south of the border, Baxter remains a hero to any Rangers fan no matter what era they belong to.
Few players defined the midfield engine better than Billy Bremner and the dynamic midfielder was one of Scotland’s best known stars in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A true leader on the pitch, Bremner was always in the thick of the action, whether in defence or attack. His best known achievements came with Leeds United, where he spent 16 years and played over 587 games. During this time, he guided Leeds to Two First Division titles as well as the FA Cup in 1972. He was also known for leading a Scottish side at the 1974 World Cup that remained undefeated but somehow failed to qualify out of the group stage. Dubbed Leeds’ greatest ever player by fans, it’s hard to question the legacy that Bremner left behind and he is undoubtedly among the greatest Scottish footballers of all time.
Celtic have seen their fair share of national icons come through their ranks but few have created a memory like Jimmie Johnstone. The right-sided midfielder was part of a Celtic side that dominated Scottish football in the late 1960s and 1970s where his passing and skill won admirers all throughout Europe making him unequestionably one of the best Scottish midfielders we’ve ever seen. During his time with The Bhoys, Johnstone won a staggering 9 Scottish First Division titles and 4 Scottish Cups as well as being a part of the famous “Lisbon Lions” side of 1967. His death in 2006 sparked tributes across Scotland including from arch rivals Rangers. If a player’s reputation can unite the Old Firm rivalry, then there’s no doubt surrounding his overall legacy.
There have been very few Scottish strikers who were as deadly as Manchester United great Denis Law. Law had a predatory instinct like no other during the 1970’s and formed a scary strike partnership with the likes of Bobby Charlton and George Best. Law’s finishing ability made him one of the most dangerous strikers on the planet during the 1960’s as he scored 237 goals in 404 appearances for United – a feat only topped by Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney. His reputation transferred over to the international game where Law was always a continuous threat scoring 30 goals in 55 appearances – a joint national record that still stands to this very day.
There are very few things that Graeme Souness has failed to do in football whether its playing, managing or even commentating but it’s his career on the pitch that laid the foundations for everything that followed. A dynamic midfielder that never stopped running, he found some success with Middlesbrough before moving to Liverpool in 1978. From there, he became a part of Liverpool’s golden age where he would win 5 English First Division titles and 3 European Cups in the space of 7 years. He played a pivotal role in the 1980/81 European Cup triumph showing off a previously untapped scoring potential to take the Golden Boot award that season. Souness’s presence in the game seems neverending and deservedly so.
With fiery red hair and a temper to match it, few players epitomize the look of a Scottish footballer quite like Gordon Strachan. The livewire midfielder was often a driving force in the opposing half looking to create opportunities or finish them whenever given a chance. Strong performances with Aberdeen in the early 1980’s opened up the world for Strachan who went on to further success with Manchester United and Leeds United helping the later win the last ever First Division trophy in 1991/92 before the formation of the Premier League. Known now for his passionate management style, Strachan’s presence has been felt both sides of the border making him an unforgettable part of British football.
For all the stick he gave players on Match of the Day, Alan Hansen speaks from experience having formed the defensive heart of one of Liverpool’s greatest sides. Starring at Anfield during both the 1970s and 1980s, Hansen’s no nonsense approach to the game thwarted strikers in their path and helped Liverpool become one of the most successful sides on the planet. Having won 6 First Division titles and 3 European Cups with Liverpool, Hansen’s success saw him earn a spot in the PFA Team of the Century when it was released in the early 2000s. This reputation means that Hansen’s reputation on TV is more than justified when he next scrutinizes a team’s performance.
Sir Kenny Dalglish
Despite all the players that have risen to play for Scotland over the years, none have so far been able to eclipse the feats and records set by Sir Kenny Dalglish. The enigmatic forward is a legend both sides of the border scoring over a hundred goals for both Celtic and Liverpool throughout his career. His constant drive and finishing ability was known worldwide and helped him win 10 national league titles and 3 European trophies during his playing tenure. He also played a big role in helping the national side reach major competitions setting records for both most appearances and most goals for Scotland with 30 goals in 102 caps – a record that stands to this day. There’s a reason why he was called “King Kenny” and arguably is top of our list of the greatest Scottish footballers of all time.