BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
MIKE FINDLAY has revealed he has a score to settle with Gordon Strachan after the Scotland boss gave him the runaround during a tour of Canada 34 years ago.
Strachan was part of a star-studded squad assembled by Jock Stein for a three-game series in North America in 1983, jetting off for fixtures against the Canucks in Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton. Scotland cruised to victory in all three.
However, Stein requested a bounce game at their Vancouver base ahead of the trio of clashes, and it was left up to a friend of his, John Buchanan, to wrangle together a ragtag team of nearby amateurs and youth products to face the likes of Graeme Souness, Charlie Nicholas and Willie Miller.
Findlay, who had given up on his hopes of a professional career by that point, made the cut but – in his own words – the team of locals were “bombed” by the Scots.
While the game was strictly behind closed doors, Canada’s interim head coach still has a picture of him and Strachan together – and never imagined that, more that three decades later, their paths would cross on the touchline of a senior international fixture.
“The interesting fact about this game, in terms of my memories, is thinking back to 1983,” recalled Findlay. “Scotland played Canada in a three-game series in Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton.
“Scotland went to Vancouver for their preparation and there was a gentleman by the name of John Buchanan, who actually just passed away recently, and he was a good friend of Jock Stein’s. Jock said ‘I’d like to set up a behind closed doors game, can you help us out.’
“So he got a group of players together – local guys and youth players – and I was 18 or 19 at the time and I played against Scotland.
“We got absolutely bombed by the way! But afterwards we got a team photo and said thanks very much. Charlie Nicholas was in that team as well, after he had just gone to Arsenal.
“In that photo, it is me and Gordon Strachan, and so many years later we are in the technical area together. It’s strange.”
That is far from Findlay’s only connection to the Scottish game, with Findlay having arrived in Glasgow at the age of 15 to pursue a career in professional football.
He was with Celtic for two years, rooming with a young David Moyes, and learned at the knee of a Lisbon Lion, Bobby Lennox.
“I was on trial at Celtic and Partick Thistle,” continued Findlay. “However, I was not good enough. I came across when I was 15 and I guess my claim to fame is that my roommate was David Moyes.
“We lived together for two years. Then I returned to North America to try and ply my trade there. But my dad told me I had to get a real job – so I went into football as a coach!
“Moysey made it, Paul McStay, his brother Willie was in that youth group too and a few of the other senior players like Pat Bonner used to play with us when he was not in the first team.
“I had an amazing time here. Bobby Lennox and Jimmy Lumsden were my coaches as a youth player – I still look back at that time fondly and learned so much.”
Findlay has been in interim charge of the Canada national team since the departure of Benito Floro last September. However, he will revert to his assistant position following tonight’s game at Easter Road to make way for Ecuadorian Octavio Zambrano.
It will be an emotional farewell to the role for Findlay, whose father Jim was born in Dumfries before settling in Canada in the 1950s.
“I visited my cousin on Tuesday, who I haven’t seen in 15 years,” Findlay smiled. “But possibly the most exciting part of it is for my dad. He is from Dumfries and is a big Queen of the South supporter – he will really enjoy this. It is emotional for me, because he moved to Canada in the 1950s and I know he is at home going crazy about this game.”