Archibald Gemmill is undoubtedly one of the most successful footballers to come from Paisley. Gemmill was a member of the successful Nottingham Forest and Derby County sides under Brian Clough and captained his national side. He scored a goal against the Netherlands in the 1978 FIFA World Cup, which is regularly cited as one of the greatest scored in the competition.
Archie Gemmill was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire where he started his career under Jackie Cox’s St Mirren side. He was sent on to replace Jim Clunie on 13 August 1966 in a Scottish Cup tie at Shawfield to become the first tactical substitute in Scottish football history. His reign was cut short after a number of successful injuries, limiting him to only 65 appearances for the Buddies.
He came to the attention of Derby County’s assistant manager Peter Taylor, who then told manager Brian Clough, about Gemmill who at the time was considering signing for reigning champions Everton. Clough famously drove to Gemmill’s house to get him to sign, when he refused to sign for Derby County, Brian Clough told him he would sleep outside in his car until he agreed to put pen to paper. Clough, eventually, got his man for £60,000 over fried eggs the following morning.
Gemmill went on to have seven successful season for the Rams, making 261 appearances and netting 17 times. During his time at Derby, he managed to win two First Division titles at his time with the club in the 70s. He was suspended for the 1973 European Cup semi-final, but he became club captain in place of the injured Roy McFarland when the Rams won their second title in 1975.
The Paisley born midfielder signed for Nottingham Forest for £25,000 after only making 5 appearances for Derby County in the 1977/78 season. He was signed by ex-manager Brian Clough becoming the third ex Derby title winning player to join Clough’s Forest. He made 58 appearances in the league scoring 3 goals. He became an essential player for Nottingham Forest’s success in the late 1970’s but was dropped for the European Cup Final in 1979. After the club’s success, Gemmill spoke about being dropped for the final; “I was devastated at the time. I was led to believe I’d be playing in the match… I was far from happy. I hated every minute of the 90 and I hated afterwards as well.”
Gemmill’s moment of magic in the 1978 World Cup is one of Scotland’s greatest ever goals in the competition. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage , after unexpectedly huge setbacks against Peru and Iran, they ironically led 2-1 midway through the second half against the Netherlands. He skipped past 3 players to then chip the ball over keeper Jan Jongbloed putting the Scots 3-1 up, the game ended 3-2. After a disappointing campaign, Gemmill admits that he doesn’t watch the goal back: “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn’t help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it’s given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future.
“It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it’ll be remembered long after I’m gone. I’m not the type to watch it. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw the goal.”
He retired in 1984, leaving the game as one of Scotland’s most celebrated and successful players.