Head and heart warmers | Caps will be sized for Turnbull, others

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A Scottish cap. Quantity: one (1). Link to Herald (Glasgow) article.Glasgow, Scotland | It is a long time to wait for a souvenir.

The Scottish Football Association announced Feb 8 that it was reversing earlier policy and granting caps—an actual braided, tasselled hat, bearing the player’s name, date and opponent—to players who competed for Scotland in matches outside the British International Championship (see Dec 26). Players such as Hibernian’s Eddie Turnbull, therefore, will be recognized for competing in World Cup matches and other internationals before 1975. Turnbull, presently recuperating from a heart attack, played nine times for Scotland and will receive the cap at a Hampden Park friendly against Switzerland on March 1.

The issue erupted into a cause cí¨lébre with publication last year of Gary Imlach‘s My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes, an extended memoir of his father Stewart‘s career with Nottingham Forest and as a Scotland international. The book was awarded the William Hill Prize for Britain’s best sports title and brought the curious Scotland policy to the fore. Gary Imlach discovered that his father had, later in life, pursued belated recognition through letters to the football authorities. Stewart Imlach’s requests for acknowledgment of having represented Scotland in the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden were repeatedly denied.

The Edinburgh Evening News launched a “Cap Fits” campaign to pursue caps for the older players, many of whom have died or lost contact with the SFA. And Gary Imlach kept pressing his case. His father, born in the fishing community of Lossiemouth, died in 2001. He did grow to treasure, however, a replica cap handmade by Nottingham Forest supporters. His son writes:

Brian Turner of Majestic Trophies had been a 14-year-old Forest fan in 1958. He and his wife Janet did some research and set about producing the most faithful replica they could of a Scotland cap: a tassel on the crown, gold braid around the peak, J S Imlach, Scotland 1958, embroidered on the front panel above it. And instead of the initials of the old home international fixtures, the full names of his four opponents: v Hungary, Poland on one side; v Yugoslavia, France on the other. He was overwhelmed.

The Nottingham Evening Post ran a piece. In the pictures his pride and pleasure are almost unbearable to look at. I wanted to say: “Dad, it’s a fake.” A beautifully crafted, gold-tasselled, well-intentioned facsimile of the real thing, with all the same high-quality needlework and absolutely none of the significance. But his delight was deep and genuine, and who was I to puncture it by passing judgment? The cap went into a glass-fronted cupboard in the hall where the wine glasses were kept, draped over a decanter.

The facsimile is the only cap his father wore, writes Gary, and was propped beside his coffin on the day of the funeral. “He’s been happy with the copy. Maybe he was right to be, maybe it had more value: a cap crafted out of genuine feeling by people who saw him play and admired him, as opposed to an item squeezed out of an unwilling bureaucracy on a technicality.”

Update: Turnbull, recovering well from his heart attack, plans to give his cap to grandson Graeme Lowe, a student at Glasgow University. Some 80 players in total are to receive caps after the Scotland FA’s reversal. Says Turnbull:

It’s as much about my family as it is about me, and the cap will be a nice thing for Graeme to have. I’m sure it’s the same for all the former players who will be getting a cap. Of course I’m delighted personally, although not having a cap was never something I made a fuss about. Those were the rules at the time and you accepted them. If you were lucky, you did get a Scotland jersey to keep but for me, the honour of playing for my country was enough of a reward.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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