With every passing season come calls to scrap international football due to domestic fixture pileups. Yet the greatest footballers on the planet are made and defined in the colours of their country. To play for your country is to experience the most dramatic moments in football, and the players who have appeared most often for Scotland over the years are certainly no strangers to this tension. Here we review the careers of Scotland’s ten most capped internationals.
Most International Appearances for Scotland
10. Willie Miller – 65 caps
A tough central defender in his day despite standing at 5ft 10in tall, Willie Miller was a true servant for club and country over almost two decades. Highly respected by his former Aberdeen gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson, Miller was the backbone to the most exciting era in the history of the Scottish national team as he won 65 caps from 1975 to 1989.
An injury sustained in the qualification phase for the 1990 World Cup denied Miller a third crack at the World Cup finals, and ultimately brought about the end of his playing career after nearly 800 appearances for his beloved Aberdeen.
9. Christian Dailly – 67 caps
Christian Dailly’s international career began at the tender age of 16, becoming the youngest player to appear for the Scottish under-21s in September 1990, just a month after breaking the same record in the Dundee United first team. With a record 35 caps at under-21 level to his name, Dailly was always destined for a long, successful career for both club and country.
A centre-back who wore his heart on his sleeve, Dailly captained Scotland on 12 occasions and remains a popular figure with the Tartan Army having started all three group stage games at the 1998 World Cup finals.
7. (Joint) David Weir – 69 caps
The third central defender on this list, David Weir had a remarkably long Scotland career given his first cap was at the age of 27 in 1997. Falkirk-born Weir was in Scotland’s last World Cup squad at France 98, yet was also very much part of the gloomy modern era for the national team after playing until the age of 40 in the dark blue, winning his 69th cap against Lithuania in 2010 as he became the oldest Scottish international in history.
Barring a short-lived international retirement in the early 2000s, Weir was an ever-present in the sides of six different Scotland managers over a period of 13 years.
7. (Joint) Kenny Miller – 69 caps
One of just two names on this list to also be included in Scotland’s top ten all-time goalscorers, Kenny Miller’s Scotland career began in 2001 under manager Craig Brown. The striker eventually cemented his place in his country’s starting XI after a rather sporadic start to his Scotland career, having waited 23 months for his second cap in a Euro 2004 qualifier.
Scoring goals at almost every club he played for, Kenny Miller was a part of as many dramatic victories as infamous defeats in a Scotland shirt until his international retirement in 2013. Miller now coaches in Australia with Western Sydney Wanderers.
6. Tom Boyd – 72 caps
Making sixth position his own is full-back Tom Boyd with 72 caps for Scotland. A Celtic captain, the Glaswegian’s record of appearing at three major tournaments for his country in the 1990s would be of envy to many Scottish players today.
In an 11-year spell as an international, Boyd found the net twice for Scotland – the first a strike against Estonia in 1997 and the second an unfortunate own goal against Brazil at the 1998 World Cup finals in a tight 2-1 defeat for the Scots.
The defender played his final game for Scotland in 2001 and is one of 32 players on the Scottish FA International Roll of Honour.
5. Paul McStay – 76 caps
76-cap midfielder Paul McStay enjoyed 14 years as a Scotland international between 1983 and 1997. Captaining his country from under-16 level up to the first team, he made his international debut as a teenager in a 2-0 win over Uruguay and is arguably the greatest midfielder to play for Scotland.
McStay earned the nickname of ‘maestro’ with his exceptional vision, skill and knack for thumping home a long-range strike, particularly in the green and white of Celtic for whom he appeared 678 times. On the international front, he is the only Scotland skipper to have lifted a major trophy, winning the European Under-18 Championship in 1982.
Always central to his manager’s plans, Paul McStay featured at the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals as well as Scotland’s first appearance at the European Championships in 1992.
4. Alex McLeish – 77 caps
The only player on this list to have gone on to manage his country, Alex McLeish’s playing career was as successful as his forays into management. The defender was an obvious choice for the national team as he formed a formidable partnership with fellow Scottish Hall of Fame inductee Willie Miller at Aberdeen, winning three titles and a European Cup Winners’ Cup during a trophy-laden golden era for the Dons.
Included in three Scottish World Cup squads between 1980 and 1993, McLeish gave his all for his country as is reflected in his fan-nominated selection in ‘Scotland’s Greatest Team’.
3. Darren Fletcher – 80 caps
In third place with 80 appearances for Scotland, Darren Fletcher is the most recent addition to this list. Coming through the ranks at Manchester United, the Tartan Army often expected Fletcher to produce that moment of world-class quality to lift the team. While he was in reality better suited to a more restricted midfield role, supporters were never let down by Fletcher’s commitment to the cause in spite of an illness which hampered his career in both international and domestic football.
Considering Fletcher was side-lined at the peak of his career, the fact he racked up 80 caps for Scotland between 2003 and 2017 is testament to his determination, which he was deservedly rewarded for with the Scotland captaincy throughout most of his career. Skippering his country at the age of 20 in 2004, Fletcher was greatly admired by fans and players alike.
2. Jim Leighton – 91 caps
The only goalkeeper to make the top ten, Jim Leighton had one of the longest international careers in the history of the Scottish national team and consequently finishes in second place on this list. The iconic goalie gave 16 years of wonderful service to his country in a successful playing career spanning over three decades before hanging up his Scotland gloves in 1998.
A former Manchester United, Aberdeen and Hibernian number one, Leighton was included in four World Cup squads but had to wrestle with Rangers keeper Andy Goram for the gloves on the international stage, eventually returning between the sticks in time for the 1998 World Cup finals.
1. Kenny Dalglish – 102 caps
Perhaps confirming his hero status in Scotland, Kenny Dalglish tops the appearances chart as well as the scoring records for his country. The term ‘legend’ is used all too frequently, but Sir Kenny really is a national treasure. Liverpool might have been his city, but in a Scotland shirt, the striker played with rampant pride – scoring not once but twice against England in two successive Scotland victories over their rivals at the British Home Championship in 1976 and 1977, moments which Dalglish holds dearly.
Of Dalglish’s 102 caps for Scotland between 1971 and 1986, eight came at the World Cup – the most of any Scottish outfield player. His goals propelled Scotland to qualify for these tournaments, forming excellent attacking partnerships with the likes of John Robertson, Joe Jordan and Archie Gemmill, before winning his final Scotland cap in a 3-0 victory over Luxembourg at Hampden Park in November 1986 and certifying his status as the golden boy of Scotland’s golden era.