Wembley Wizards

Last updated

Event 1928 British Home Championship
Date31 March 1928
Venue Wembley Stadium, London
Referee Willie Bell (Scotland)

The Wembley Wizards is a nickname for the Scotland national football team who defeated England 5–1 at Wembley in the 1928 British Home Championship. [1]

Scotland national football team mens association football team representing Scotland

The Scotland national football team represents Scotland in international football and is controlled by the Scottish Football Association. It competes in the three major professional tournaments, the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Nations League and the UEFA European Championship. Scotland, as a constituent country of the United Kingdom, is not a member of the International Olympic Committee and therefore the national team does not compete in the Olympic Games. The majority of Scotland's home matches are played at the national stadium, Hampden Park.

England national football team Mens association football team representing England

The England national football team represents England in senior men's international football and is controlled by The Football Association, the governing body for football in England.

Wembley Stadium (1923) former stadium in London, England which opened in 1923

The original Wembley Stadium was a football stadium in Wembley Park, London, which stood on the same site now occupied by its successor, the new Wembley Stadium. The demolition in 2003 of its famous Twin Towers upset many people worldwide. Debris from the stadium was used to make the Northala Fields in Northolt, London.



Scotland had failed to win either of their previous matches in the 1928 British Home Championship, losing 1–0 to Ireland at Hampden Park and drawing 2–2 with Wales in Wrexham. [2] England had lost their first two games, 2–0 to Ireland in Belfast and 2–1 in Burnley to the eventual champions Wales. England's recent record against Scotland was poor, having only won once against Scotland in the 1920s. [2] That solitary win had come in the previous match between the teams, a 2–1 win at Hampden in the 1927 British Home Championship that gave England a share of the championship with Scotland.

Ireland national football team (1882–1950) earlier mens national association football team representing the whole of Ireland from 1882 to 1921

The Ireland national football team represented Ireland in association football from 1882 until 1950. It was organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA), and is the fourth oldest international team in the world. It mainly played in the British Home Championship against England, Scotland and Wales. Though often vying with Wales to avoid the wooden spoon, Ireland did win the Championship in 1914, and shared it with England and Scotland in 1903.

Hampden Park football stadium

Hampden Park is a football stadium in the Mount Florida area of Glasgow, Scotland. The 51,866-capacity venue serves as the national stadium of football in Scotland. It is the normal home venue of the Scotland national football team and amateur Scottish league club Queen's Park F.C. and regularly hosts the latter stages of the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup competitions. It is also used for music concerts and other sporting events, such as when it was reconfigured as an athletics stadium for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Wales national football team mens association football team representing Wales

The Wales national football team represents Wales in international football. It is controlled by the Football Association of Wales (FAW), the governing body for football in Wales and the third-oldest national football association in the world.

The Scottish Football League XI had lost 6–2 to the Football League at Hampden on 10 March. [3] An international trial match was played on the following Tuesday between the Anglos [note 1] and Home Scots. [3] [note 2] The two sides for that game, a 1–1 draw on 13 March, were as follows: [4]

The Scottish League XI was a representative side of the Scottish Football League. The team regularly played against the (English) Football League and other national league select teams between 1892 and 1980. For a long period the annual fixture between the English and Scottish leagues was only second in importance to the matches between the two national teams. The fixture declined in importance after regular European club competition was instituted in the 1950s; matches in the 1960s and 1970s were played irregularly and poorly attended. A match involving a Scottish League XI was last played in 1990, to mark the centenary of the League.

Home Scots: Jack Harkness (Queen's Park); Dougie Gray (Rangers), Willie McStay (captain, Celtic); Kennedy (Falkirk), Lambie (Partick Thistle), Tully Craig (Rangers); Gavigan (St Johnstone), Stewart Chalmers (Queen's Park), David McCrae (St Mirren), Bob McPhail (Airdrieonians), Adam McLean (Celtic).

John Diamond Harkness MBE was a Scottish international footballer, best remembered as the goalkeeper in the famous "Wembley Wizards" Scotland side of 1928.

Queens Park F.C. association football club

Queen's Park Football Club is a Scottish football club based in Glasgow. The club is currently the only fully amateur club in the Scottish Professional Football League; its amateur status is reflected by its Latin motto, 'Ludere Causa Ludendi' – 'To Play for the Sake of Playing'.

Douglas Herbert Gray was a Scottish footballer, who spent his entire senior career with Rangers F.C., Glasgow and is the club's longest serving player in its history.

Anglo Scots: Jock Crawford (Blackburn Rovers); James Nelson (Cardiff City), Smith (Middlesbrough); Johnny Duncan (Leicester City), Tom Bradshaw (Bury), Jimmy McMullan (Manchester City); David Robbie (Bury), Arthur Lochhead (Leicester City), Tommy Jennings (Leeds United), Alex James (Preston North End), George McLachlan (Cardiff City).

Blackburn Rovers F.C. English football club

Blackburn Rovers Football Club is a professional football club in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, which competes in the Championship, the second tier of the English football league system, following promotion from League One at the end of the 2017–18 season.

Cardiff City F.C. association football club

Cardiff City Football Club is a professional association football club based in Cardiff, Wales, that competes in the Premier League, the top tier of the English football league system.

Middlesbrough F.C. association football club

Middlesbrough Football Club is a professional association football club based in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, England. They are currently competing in the EFL Championship, the second tier of English football. Formed in 1876, they have played at the Riverside Stadium since 1995, their third ground since turning professional in 1889. They played at the Linthorpe Road ground from 1882 to 1903 and at Ayresome Park for 92 years, from 1903 to 1995.

A large crowd gathered outside the Scottish Football Association offices to hear the official announcement of the team to face England. [2] The selection came as a surprise and caused much controversy, as regulars Davie Meiklejohn, Jimmy McGrory, Bob McPhail and Willie McStay were omitted. [2] The Anglos appeared to be favoured, with eight players from The Football League selected to play. [2] Tom Bradshaw had been picked to make his international debut; he would have the unenviable task of marking Dixie Dean, the prolific Everton goalscorer. [2] Hughie Gallacher was also selected despite having not played for two months. [2]

Scottish Football Association governing body of association football in Scotland

The Scottish Football Association, is the governing body of football in Scotland and has the ultimate responsibility for the control and development of football in Scotland. Members of the SFA include clubs in Scotland, affiliated national associations as well as local associations. It was formed in 1873, making it the second oldest national football association in the world. It is not to be confused with the "Scottish Football Union", which is the name that the SRU was known by until the 1920s.

Jimmy McGrory Scottish football manager

James Edward McGrory was a Scottish International football player, who played for Celtic and Clydebank as a forward, and then went on to manage Kilmarnock, before returning to Celtic after the end of the Second World War, to manage them.

Robert Lowe "Bob" McPhail was a Scottish professional footballer, who played for Airdrieonians, Rangers and represented Scotland.

The Scottish media was unimpressed by the selection, with the Daily Record commenting simply that "it's not a great side." [2] Four of the England side were playing for Huddersfield Town, one of the strongest League sides at the time, and Dixie Dean was nearing the end of his record 60-goal league season. The received opinion was that England would win, as the Scottish side were not only considered to be less talented than their counterparts, but also less physically powerful. [2] Of the forward line of Alex Jackson, James Dunn, Gallacher, Alex James and Alan Morton, Jackson was the tallest at just 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m). [2]

Nonetheless, there was still great excitement in Scotland ahead of the game, with 11 special trainloads of supporters travelling from Glasgow to London on the Friday night before the game. [2] The Scottish players stayed at the Regent Palace hotel, where the captain Jimmy McMullan said: "The [SFA] President (Robert Campbell) [5] wants us to discuss football but you all know what's expected of you tomorrow. All I've got to say is, go to your bed, put your head on your pillow and pray for rain." [2] Rain would mean a heavy pitch, which would suit the small Scottish forwards. [2] McMullan's prayers were answered as London awoke to heavy rain. [2]

The match

The game had a dramatic opening, with Billy Smith hitting the post beyond the Scottish goalkeeper Jack Harkness in the first attack of the game. [1] [2] Scotland immediately responded; Alan Morton received the ball on the left wing and crossed for Alex Jackson to head in the opening goal after just three minutes. [1] [2] The performances of Morton and Jackson on the wings forced English defenders wide to combat them, which left space for Dunn, Gallacher, and James to exploit. [2] A resolute performance by the English defence kept Scotland at bay for most of the first half, but with just one minute remaining before half-time, Alex James beat Ted Hufton in the England goal with a left foot shot. [1]

What followed in the second half was one of the most memorable 45 minutes in Scottish football history. Conditions did not improve and, yet, somehow, the Scots raised their game further, dominating the play. [1] The third Scottish goal, 20 minutes into the second half, was similar to their first, as Morton took the ball almost to the corner flag before sending over another precision cross which Jackson met with his head. [1] [2] Moments after this third goal, James made the score 0–4, ably assisted by Gallacher. [1] [2] Jackson converted another cross from Morton with five minutes left on the clock to complete his hat-trick and to make the score 0–5. [1] [2] England were well beaten, but to their credit, they did not give up trying. [1] With a minute to go, Bob Kelly struck a free-kick past Jack Harkness to make the final score England 1, Scotland 5. [1] [2] At the end of the game the rain-sodden crowd applauded the performance. [1]

England  Flag of England.svg1–5Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland
Bob Kelly Soccerball shade.svg 89' Alex Jackson Soccerball shade.svg 3', 65', 85'
Alex James Soccerball shade.svg 44', 74'
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 80,868
Referee: Willie Bell (Scotland) [note 3]
GK1 Ted Hufton (West Ham United)
FB2 Roy Goodall (Huddersfield Town) (c)
FB3 Herbert Jones (Blackburn Rovers)
RH4 Willis Edwards (Leeds United)
CH5 Thomas Wilson (Huddersfield Town)
LH6 Henry Healless (Blackburn Rovers)
RW7 Joe Hulme (Arsenal)
IR8 Bob Kelly (Huddersfield Town)
CF9 Dixie Dean (Everton)
IL10 Joe Bradford (Birmingham)
LW11 Billy Smith (Huddersfield Town)
GK1 Jack Harkness (Queen's Park)
FB2 James Nelson (Cardiff City)
FB3 Tommy Law (Chelsea)
RH4 Jimmy Gibson (Aston Villa)
CH5 Tom Bradshaw (Bury)
LH6 Jimmy McMullan (Manchester City) (c)
RW7 Alex Jackson (Huddersfield Town)
IR8 James Dunn (Hibernian)
CF9 Hughie Gallacher (Newcastle United)
IL10 Alex James (Preston North End)
LW11 Alan Morton (Rangers)


When asked for his comment after the game, Alex James simply beamed a smile and said, “We could have had ten!”

Back in Scotland the pubs did rather well and the newspapers were not slow in piling praise on the heads of those little no-hopers of the Scottish side. The Glasgow Herald was a typical example when they said: ‘ Want of height was looked upon as a handicap to the Scots’ attack, but the Scottish forwards had the ability and skill of such high degree as to make their physical shortcomings of little consequence.’ Scotland skipper Jimmy McMullan took time out from the after match celebrations to comment on the way he saw the game:

“I want to emphasise that all our forwards are inherently clever,” he said. “But I wish to say that the English tactics were wrong. The Saxon wing-halves paid more attention to the wingers than the inside forwards – therefore the latter were given a lot of space. It is a common thing in England to let wing halves, and not fullbacks, mark the wingers. It doesn’t pay and I don’t know why they pursue it.”

It was a gentlemanly comment, as he did not belittle the English effort or try to elevate his own side to the abnormal, but merely made an observation which was probably just about right. By adopting those tactics, England placed themselves at the mercy of a much-underrated Scotland attack. The rain made matters worse for England too.

It was also a historic day in the story of Wembley Stadium. In a booklet published by the stadium owners in 1945, the story is told like this: [6]

"English football fans shudder when the year 1928 is mentioned. The traditional enemy, Scotland came to Wembley and gave the Sassenachs a first class lesson in the art of playing football. So much so that, to this day, that Scottish team is still spoken of as 'The Wembley Wizards’. [6]

All Scotland seemed to come to town for that match, and the fans actually brought their own scaling ladders to make sure of getting into the stadium. As a result of this, Wembley afterwards became a barbed wire fortress. [6]

The King and Queen of Afghanistan were among the mammoth crowd who saw the Scots make rings around England. It was Scotland’s day without a doubt. Alan Morton, Glasgow Rangers’ Wee Blue Devil, and Alex Jackson, then with Huddersfield and later with Chelsea, were on the Scottish wings and the English defenders just couldn’t do anything about them. Also of course there was the great Alex James – he of long pants who rarely scored a goal but made openings for hundreds."

Ivan Sharpe, the ex-player and writer, commented on the victory for the Athletic News: "England were not merely beaten. They were bewildered – run to a standstill, made to appear utterly inferior by a team whose play was as cultured and beautiful as I ever expect to see." [6] More than 30 years later he was still writing the same thing, adding that he had never seen a performance to match it in all the time that he had been watching football.

The Wizards were never selected again en masse for an international match. [2] Tom Bradshaw never played another game for Scotland, despite effectively marking Dixie Dean out of the game. [2]


  1. Scottish players playing in the English league
  2. Scottish players playing in the Scottish league.
  3. The practice of an 'away' side providing the referee was well established in the 1920s. Scottish referee Tom Doughray had refereed the England v Scotland matches played in 1920, 1922, 1924 and 1926.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Auld Enemy". Scottish Football Association . Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 "Wembley Wizards 1928". BBC . Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  3. 1 2 "Hearts and Scottish Football Reports For Sat 10 Mar 1928 Page 01 of 12". www.londonhearts.com. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  4. Trial Match Report, www.londonhearts.com
  5. Blair, Alastair. "Robert Campbell". www.perthstjohnstonefc.co.uk. St Johnstone FC. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Wembley Wizards report in Hughie Gallacher profile Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine