The most distinguished international football teams are often defined by goals. Goals that seal qualification to a major tournament, bring home a trophy or lift a nation in its time of need with a mazy run past dumbfounded defenders or a deft toe poke to the bottom corner, are prevalent in most YouTube compilations. And it’s the players who can consistently produce these moments of flair, or indeed good fortune, that are best remembered by supporters. This list introduces Scotland’s top goalscorers, who combined ingenuity with determination on the pitch to write their names into international football history.
Most international goals for Scotland:
10. (Joint) Andrew Wilson – 13 goals
Lanarkshire lad Andrew Wilson, born in 1896, scored all 13 of his international goals at the British Home Championship in a Scotland career spanning from 1920 to 1923. Very much the star of the 1920-21 edition of the now defunct competition, Wilson’s impressive goalscoring record set Scotland on their way to winning three British Home Championships in a row.
A prolific club career ended in 1934 at Sporting Club Nîmes after a notable spell with Chelsea, where he made 238 appearances, scoring 58, over an 8-year period in West London.
10. (Joint) Robert Smyth McColl – 13 goals
Another striker born before the war with 13 goals to his name, McColl bagged three hat-tricks for Scotland in just 13 appearances for his country. Despite having a successful career in football with Queen’s Park, Newcastle and Rangers, ‘Toffee Bob’ may be better known in his homeland for his popular newsagent business, titled RS McColl, which he founded in 1901 with his brother.
9. Mo Johnston – 14 goals
Making his international debut in 1984, the Glaswegian was integral under manager Andy Roxburgh and netted four times in his first year as a Scotland player, including a brace against Spain at Hampden Park.
The striker’s six goals in the qualification phase for Italia 90 took Scotland to their seventh World Cup, where he delighted the Tartan Army with a perfect penalty against Sweden in Genoa.
7. (Joint) James McFadden – 15 goals
Fondly remembered by the Tartan Army, James McFadden is a rare example of a striker who could never quite replicate his international form at club level. During McFadden’s 8-year Scotland career in which he was capped 48 times, nearly all of his 15 international goals were scored with extreme finesse, and each accompanied by an electrifying roar from the stands as he became the hero of the modern era in a dark blue shirt.
With every failed qualifying campaign of the 2000s came iconic moments of sheer talent from ‘Faddy’, from smashing one past the Netherlands in a Euro 2004 play-off to his famous Euro 2008 qualifying volley in Paris which prompted delirious screams in the commentary box.
7. (Joint) Robert Hamilton – 15 goals
Along with McColl, Robert Hamilton fired the Scottish national team to success in the pre-war epoch with 15 goals in 13 appearances between 1899 and 1911. The Elgin-born forward impressively holds the highest goals per game average on this list, in no small part due to his 4-goal contribution to Scotland’s record 11-0 victory over Ireland in 1901.
Part of a trailblazing era in football for his country, Hamilton was undoubtedly the most prolific Scottish centre forward of his time in spite of a rather brief international career.
6. Kenny Miller – 18 goals
While Kenny Miller holds the highest goal tally of the 21st century in a dark blue shirt with 18 goals in 69 appearances over 12 years as a Scotland international, his respectable goalscoring record was overshadowed by the dreary atmosphere surrounding the national team over numerous painful qualifying campaigns.
Labelled as a journeyman of the Scottish game, the former Rangers and Celtic striker’s playing style was built on passion and drive as he ran himself into the ground time and time again for the national team.
In 2013, Miller called time on his Scotland days, bowing out with a goal against the Auld Enemy in a 3-2 friendly defeat for the Scots as he became the first player in a Scotland jersey to score from open play at Wembley since John Wark in 1979.
5. Ally McCoist – 19 goals
The only Scot to win the European Golden Shoe, ‘Super Ally’ McCoist is one of the most memorable centre forwards on this list. His best goal in the dark blue of Scotland came against Switzerland at Euro 96 in Birmingham, expertly driving a long-range strike past the keeper after squandering two far easier chances earlier in the half.
Now a popular pundit for several television outlets, the Rangers legend counts an MBE, a Ballon d’Or nomination and a deserved place in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame on a lengthy honours list.
4. Lawrie Reilly – 22 goals
In fourth place with 22 goals in 38 appearances for his country is Edinburgh-born Lawrie Reilly. Playing for Scotland between 1948 and 1957, he is another name on this list to have racked up the goals at the annual British Home Championship at which he appeared in nine out of ten years as an international.
A one-club man with Hibernian, Reilly scored decisive late goals against England and Northern Ireland which earned him the “last-minute Reilly” nickname in the 1950s.
3. Hughie Gallacher – 24 goals
With an average of 1.2 goals per game for Scotland and a key fixture for Newcastle and Chelsea sides of the 1920s and 30s, it’s difficult to pick just one highlight of Hughie Gallacher’s playing career.
In 1929 Gallacher bagged five goals in a 7-3 victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast but may be better remembered as Scotland’s centre forward in the famed 5-1 thrashing of England at Wembley the year before. While he wasn’t on the scoresheet that day, Gallacher is forever a ‘Wembley Wizard’ and the embodiment of a traditional goalscoring number nine.
1. (Joint) Kenny Dalglish – 30 goals
The universally adored Kenny Dalglish is not only Scotland’s joint record goalscorer with 30 goals, but also the only player to appear more than 100 times for his country. ‘King Kenny’ is widely regarded as the greatest striker to grace British football in the post-war era.
The diminutive forward equalled Denis Law’s Scotland goals total in 1984, a decade after Dalglish had picked up the mantle from the retiring Law to lead his country to become regulars at the World Cup. Netting in some of Scotland’s most memorable victories against England and the Netherlands, it’s unlikely a player of Dalglish’s marksmanship will don the dark blue shirt again.
1. (Joint) Denis Law – 30 goals
From one king of Scottish football to another, ‘The King’ Denis Law also tops this list, having bagged the same number of goals as Dalglish in almost 50 fewer caps for Scotland. Agile and elegant on the ball, the 5ft 9in striker starred at numerous British Home Championships as Scotland sadly missed out on qualification for major tournaments throughout the majority of his international career.
Law made his World Cup debut at the age of 34 and featured in just one match – Scotland’s opening tie against Zaire. While the opportunity to showcase his talent at the biggest international stage alluded him, Denis Law lists his goal against England in a 3-2 victory for Scotland as one of his greatest achievements. Along with a Ballon d’Or and two First Division titles, of course.