Prior to 1980, playing for Aberdeen, or indeed any side out with the "Old Firm", was hardly a positive advantage to a player who had ambitions to further his international career. Sometimes it seemed that a "provincial" player had to prove himself over a prolonged period while a relatively inexperienced "Old Firm" counterpart could almost walk into the national side.
No less a figure than Jock Stein confirmed the reality of that situation when he told Alex Ferguson that it became easier to select Dons skipper Willie Miller once the Dons had validated their growing reputation by winning the Premier League title in 1980. So it was with other Pittodrie stalwarts. The club's League triumph opened the flood-gates to an unparalleled series of Dons international call-ups, and one of the first to benefit from Aberdeen's new standing was Steve Archibald.
Born in Glasgow on 7th September 1956, Steve first made his mark with Rutherglen side Crofoot United before joining another local outfit, Fernhill Athletic. Steve, an apprentice car mechanic, caught the eye of Clyde manager Stan Anderson while playing with Fernhill, and at the comparatively mature age of 18, in modern game terms, turned senior with the Shawfield side in 1974. He made a couple of first team appearances with the Bully Wee towards the end of his first season at the club, and over the subsequent season went on to establish himself as a first team regular.
Then came the break that catapulted Steve from being just another part-time player into the big time. Stan Anderson stood down as Clyde boss in March 1977, and Celtic legend Billy McNeill took over the reins. McNeill spent less than two months as Clyde manager before he was approached by Aberdeen to take over as Pittodrie supreme in the wake of Ally McLeod's defection to the national team job. During McNeill's short time at Shawfield young Archibald obviously made an impression, since the new Dons boss moved in for Steve and took him to Pittodrie for a modest £20,000 fee in January 1978.
Steve made an immediate impact, and became an instant success with the fans. In only his third game he scored twice at Ibrox in a 3-0 demolition of supposed runaway champions Rangers, and he quickly struck up a rapport with the prolific Joe Harper. Archibald's goals were a regular feature as the Dons put together a remarkable unbeaten run that took them to the verge of an unlikely League and Cup double, although Steve had the painful experience of sitting out the cup ties as he had already played for Clyde in the competition.
In the end the Dons came up just a little short, and it looked as if Archibald's rags-to-riches rise might come to nothing after all. However, under Alex Ferguson the following season, Steve's fortunes continued their upward spiral. Archibald could play as an out-and-out centre forward or in a forward midfield role, but wherever he played he could be counted on for goals either with the ball on the ground or in the air, courtesy of his strong aerial ability. His aggressive style and dogged determination also made him a difficult man to play against and he seemed to reserve his best performances for the games that really mattered.
In the run-in to the Dons 1980 title success Steve scored several vital goals, including the opener in an important 3-1 win at Celtic Park, and the first in the nervy atmosphere of the title clincher at Easter Road, which the Dons went on to win 5-0. Steve's meteoric rise at club level had not gone unnoticed at Park Gardens, and in December 1979 he received his first under-21 cap against Belgium at Tynecastle.
Two months later he opened his under-21 scoring account against the English at Highfield Road in a 2-1 defeat, and in March 1980 he was named in the full international squad for a home European Championship tie against Portugal. The game was meaningless to Scotland, who had no chance of qualifying for the finals, but the visitors needed the points to make it to the big event. Archibald was named as a substitute and watched as the Scots raced to a 2-0 advantage by half-time. Three minutes into the second period Steve got his big chance after Kenny Dalglish picked up an ankle knock. He made the most of it by sealing the win with a goal just over 15 minutes after his introduction, and after Portugal pulled a goal back, Archibald turned provider for the Scots fourth. Andy Gray was pushed going for the debutant's cross and Archie Gemill made it 4-1 from the spot.
Less than six frantic weeks later, during which time Aberdeen had won the League, Steve was named in the Scotland side for the opening British Championship match against Northern Ireland in Belfast. By that time he had signed for Spurs for an amazing club record fee of £800,000. Steve went on to become a great success at White Hart Lane, where he quickly adapted to his new surroundings. He ended his first season in English football as the First Division's top scorer, besides helping Spurs to the first of two memorable, successive FA Cup wins. Throughout his early Spurs days, Steve was a Scotland regular, but his happy knack of finding the net at club level inexplicably deserted him in a Scotland jersey.
In 1982, Archibald went to the World Cup Finals in Spain, where he played in all three of Scotland's matches. His international appearances thereafter were limited to a further 10 over a four year spell, giving him a final tally of 27 full caps.
In 1984 he played a big part in Tottenham's UEFA Cup achievement, and then in August of that year Steve was the target of Terry Venables, who took the Scot to Barcelona for a whopping £1.15 million. Archibald served his new master well, helping the Catalan side to their first Spanish title in 11 years, in 1986 he as farmed out to Barcelona's feeder team, but by the end of the season had been restored in place of big money buy Mark Hughes. Following El Tel's departure from Spain, Steve returned to his roots and had spells with Hibs and St Mirren before finally hanging up his boots.