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The Last Action Hero: Peter Lorimer | @AlexHTheMAX

The passing of Peter Lorimer on Saturday 20th March 2021, at 74, is truly the end of a football era. When shooting from distance was a norm and Scots starred in England, radio presenter @AlexHTheMAX remembers a childhood hero. 

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In the early and mid 1970s the weekday routine for most Scottish schoolboys was simple and straightforward. School -> home -> then out to play football until it was too dark to see the ball. 

TV was king, despite only three channels being available, and late Saturday night North of the border was highlights of a top Scottish game on BBC Scotland 'Sportscene' with glimpses of two English matches borrowed from Match of the Day to finish with. 

This was a time when it wasn't unusual for top English teams to have three, four or even five Scots in their first eleven and Leeds United had more than most. Infact, when they appeared in the 1975 European Cup Final there were a magnificent seven Scots in the side that took to the field in Paris v Bayern Munich. 

The 1975 Leeds side contained 7 Scots

Most Scottish youngsters of the time had a fave English side, such was the proliferation of tartan talent in the then Football League Division One, and while I loyally supported my home town team home and away (Cowdenbeath) in the spit and mud of the old Scottish Second Division, it was the all white kit of Leeds United that I imagined myself in when I took to the recreation ground behind my parents house as a 10 and 11 year old. 

Peter Lorimer had a right foot to dream for and I was all right foot. Infact, it was my only real asset on a football pitch. 

I was never going to be a Lorimer but now that the great man has gone thoughts of attempting 20 yard efforts and volleys that had as much chance of ending up on the main road as in the top corner Lorimer style come flooding back. 

Peter Lorimer was my last real football hero. 

21 caps (with four goals) for Scotland and a member of the first Scottish international side to make a World Cup finals for 16 years. In 1974, the Dundee born real life 'Hot Shot Hamish' cemented his place in Tartan Army folklore as part of the first Scotland side to beat England since Wembley '67, just before the Scots headed to West Germany for a 1974 World Cup their cross border rivals missed out on. 

Peter Lorimer whilst representing Scotland

Scotland v England at rainy Hampden in the Home Internationals of 1974 saw the home side flaunt the ball that would be used in the upcoming World Cup for the world's oldest international that day. Although the game was decided by two goals that were deflections, (courtesy of  England defenders Colin Todd and Mike Pejic), the Leeds duo, Jordan and Lorimer, terrorised the visiting defence with assistance from the veteran Jimmy Johnstone and the emerging Kenny Dalglish. 

The Hampden victory that day must have been a personal triumph for Lorimer, as some 16 months previously, he had sensationally scored at the wrong end at Hampden. It was unbelievable at the time to see Lorimer OG in the match report, and that sent England on their way to a 0-5 demolition of the Scots in Glasgow in a badly conceived SFA centenary international, arranged for the coldest month of the Scottish winter. 

A few months after the centenary international, Lorimer would be part of the Leeds side that sensationally lost the 1973 FA Cup Final 1-0 to Second Division Sunderland at Wembley. Not even the Hotshot of Leeds could get past inspired goalkeeper Jim Montgomery that day in May. 

Cup Final and Centenary International shame were wiped from the memory with the 2-0 win v the Auld Enemy in '74 and it was onto matches v Zaire, Brazil and Yugoslavia in the World Cup. 

Jordan and Lorimer again led the way for Scotland in an opening 2-0 win v the former Belgian Congo in the First Round group stage in West Germany. A solid start, but it was the Scots' second World Cup' 74 tournament fixture v World Champions Brazil that stays long in the memory, with Lorimer testing their goalkeeper with long range free kicks that Rivelino, also on the pitch that day, would find hard to equal. 

Scotland faced 1970 champions Brazil in the 1974 World Cup

Elland Road captain Billy Bremner missed a gilt edged chance late on and the match ended 0-0, but Lorimer played again in the final group game v Yugoslavia. The final score was 1-1, with Leeds heavily influencing the match again as Joe Jordan equalised; but the Scots' "glorious failure" moniker was born as they went out of the tournament unbeaten, with Brazil qualifying ahead of them as they'd scored one more v Zaire. 

A year later, Lorimer would have a typical spectacular strike ruled out in the European Cup Final, after Franz Beckenbauer appealed against the goal to the French referee with the reason being Billy Bremner was slightly offside. The ref overturned his original decision of goal and riots would break out in the stadium. A generation of Leeds fans would claim Bayern nicked the European Cup 2-0 because of the goal/no goal decision and, for Lorimer, it was a result that maybe even surpassed that 5-0 England defeat in the mind of the player who had had an uninterrupted 14 year career at Elland Road by the date of the '75 Parc Des Princes final. 

Lorimer would then go onto play in the lucrative North American Soccer League, before a return to England with York City and then a two year swan song at Leeds with 76 appearances, before a brief spell at an Israeli club, he also played at Whitby Town. 

However, for me, early to mid-1970s Lorimer will always be a player to aspire to, whatever your football era, and some of his goals are truly stuff of boys own comics of the day. The Lorimer applause celebration with hands above head and of course the rocket shot were a happy part of my childhood. 

RIP Peter Lorimer (14 December 1946 - 20 March 2021)

By Alex Horsburgh, follow him on Twitter: @AlexHTheMAX and check out The Football History Boys too: @TFHBs

©The Football History Boys, 2021
(All pictures borrowed and not owned by TFHB)

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