In the wake of Ally McLeod's "elevation" from Aberdeen manager to national team boss at the end of the 1976-77 season, one might have expected that a few of Ally's old boys at Pittodrie would be rewarded with an international call-up. The players, after all, had done much to raise Ally's managerial stock by blending together and creating the first realistic challenge to the Old Firm's domination
for some years. But the extrovert McLeod was in the hot seat for eight months before he awarded his former skipper Willie Miller his second full cap in February 1978 and brought in full back Stuart Kennedy for his first taste of international action. Kennedy's chance came after an injury to long standing Scotland right back Danny McGrain, and on the face of it the opportunity could not have come at a better time, with the World Cup Finals in Argentina just four months away.
With hindsight his inclusion so close to Scotland's World Cup nightmare probably did his long term international prospects more harm than good. Stuart took his place against Bulgaria at Hampden on 22 February 1978, in what was the Dark Blues' only warm up game, apart from the British Championship, in the build up to the big event in South America. Kennedy did well on his debut, displaying all the speed and tenacity he showed at club level while defending, besides adding welcome attacking flair on the overlap to the Scotland side.
Along with Bobby Clark, Joe Harper and Willie Miller, Stuart was named on Scotland's World Cup 40 for Argentina, with all but Miller making it to the final 22. Stuart received his second and third caps in British Championship games at Hampden Park against Wales and England, although in the eyes of the public, these games hardly seemed to matter against a background of increasing pre-Argentina hysteria.
On 3 June 1978, Stuart Kennedy became the first Don in 20 years to play on the big stage of a World Cup Final when Scotland took on Peru in their group opener (Graham Leggat in Sweden in 1958 was the last previously). Unfortunately, that date will forever be remembered as one of Scotland's darkest international hours. Stuart, among others, was left out for the next match against Iran (the real disaster in Argentina) but, without justification, was tarred with some of the blame for the debacle.
he finger pointers glossed over Kennedy's fine performance in the 3-2 win over subsequent finalists Holland in Scotland's final group match, and the damage had been done. The Aberdeen full back retained his place in Scotland's side in the wake of the Argentina fiasco, playing against Austria in Vienna in a European Championship qualifier. But a 3-2 loss to the Austrians proved the final straw for Ally McLeod and he resigned as Scotland's manager a few days later. New boss Jock Stein passed over Kennedy for his first match in charge, on 25 October 1978, against Norway, but Stuart returned for his 7th cap in a European Championship qualifier against Portugal in Lisbon.
He was his usual dependable self in a Scotland side which defended well despite a 1-0 win for the Portuguese. Stuart dropped out of Stein's plans, and it seemed his days in a dark blue jersey were over. There was still a final twist to Kennedy's international career, however. The Dons emergence as THE power in Scottish football in the 1980's propelled everyone at Pittodrie into the international spotlight, and Stuart won one final cap again with Portugal the opponents - in November 1981.
Born in Grangemouth on 31 May 1953, Stuart Kennedy began his football career with Falkirk. His polished performances in a struggling Brockville side won him many admirers. He started to realise his potential when Ally Mcleod took him to Pittodrie for the bargain fee of £40,000 in the summer of 1976.
Stuart went straight into a new look Dons side that McLeod had put together and immediately solved the right back problem that had dogged the Reds since the untimely departure of Jim Hermiston over a year earlier. Three months after his first game in a Dons shirt, Stuart played a big part in the League Cup success of 1976, and he went on to establish himself as one of the classiest full backs in the Club's history.
As a defender he was a complete professional. His pace, determination and timing always gave him the upper hand against the best of opponents and even on the odd occasion a forward got past him, he had an amazing ability to recover. He was booked only twice in his seven success-laden seasons at Pittodrie. While his international career flagged, manager Alex Ferguson had no complaints about his automatic choice at right back, and Kennedy was a key ingredient in an Aberdeen defence that was recognised as one of the tightest in the country. Stuart was so dependable that his contribution was almost taken for granted at times, with critics picking only on a stray cross or two when he joined the attack, instead of praising his immense defensive qualities.
What he did, week in and week out, became apparent when he was not there and that was not often since he had a fierce pride in his own fitness. He was an important part of the League Championship winning side in 1980, and completed his haul of domestic honours when he did his bit in the Dons 4-1 thrashing of Rangers in the 1982 Scottish Cup Final. Stuart scored a rare goal in the 7-1 hammering of Swiss side Sion in the opening game of Aberdeen's European Cup Winners Cup run in 1982-83, and all looked well for him as Aberdeen set Scotland alight with their progress to the final in Gothenburg. He played in the semi-final win against Belgian side Waterschel at Pittodrie when the Dons finished with a 5-1 advantage. But tragically, with the Cup Winners Cup Final beckoning, not to mention another Scottish Cup Final at Hampden, Stuart caught his studs in the turf in the return match at the bumpy Dumont stadium in Belgium, suffering a serious knee injury.
What was the formality of the second leg of the semi-final was marred by Kennedy's injury, and it turned out to be his last game for the Dons. Alex Ferguson paid Stuart the compliment of naming him on the subs bench in Gothenburg, but not surprisingly the event was something of an anticlimax for the veteran full back as he missed out on playing on what would have been the biggest night in his career.