SFA doctor on life at Hampden

HE’S a familiar sight running across the Hampden pitch during Scotland games, but you may not recognise the name.

With a World Cup and European Championship on his CV and 150 internationals under his belt, he stands out from a Scotland squad who have never participated in a major tournament.

John MacLean isn’t a player you’ve failed to notice – he’s the official Scotland team doctor, an integral cog behind-the-scenes who keeps the international stars in tip-top condition.

The 52-year-old runs a sports medicine practice deep within the bowels of Hampden Park, and he’s worked with seven different Scotland bosses, ranging from Craig Brown to Craig Levein.

Speaking about the latest man in charge, Dr MacLean said: “I think the big thing is Craig Levein more than most is somebody who likes to have a fairly tight group around them.

“None of the managers are stupid. I’m sure he asked Davie Weir or Darren Fletcher what the medical staff was like when he took the job.”

Being part of the international set-up can be a gruelling ordeal, and the trips to exotic locations throughout Europe aren’t as glamorous as many might assume.

Scotland doctor: John MacLean

“When we’re abroad there’s a routine – the players go to bed after lunch and the staff will go for a walk into the town centre and have a wander round. There’s a real atmosphere with all the Scotland fans.”

No time for relaxing

But he can’t enjoy the R&R too much – “My philosophy has always been that if someone suddenly starts to be sick and they’ve got their head down the toilet and the doc’s half an hour away looking at a monument or a church then it’s not really appropriate.”

And when the team is on international duty, it can be problematic for members of staff watching their waistline: “The players eat loads and loads of food, which is quite difficult for folk like me who like our food when we’re away. It’s very difficult not to have three courses at lunch-time. The selection is too good.”

Dr MacLean is kept busy when the international team isn’t together. Aside from his sports medicine practice, he is also an Honorary Clinical Senior lecturer in Sport & Exercise Medicine at University of Glasgow, where he himself graduated in 1981.


He first joined the Scotland set-up in 1983, travelling with the youth team to Russia for the European Championships. A short spell followed at Rangers before he moved to Clyde to work with then-boss Craig Brown. It was this relationship that made him the obvious candidate to go to Euro 1996 in England, and he’s been with the full international team ever since.

The relationship he develops with players is vitally important, and he’s keen to stress that he’s not just a doctor but also a confidant if anyone needs help: “Sometimes it’s difficult. There are instances where a player doesn’t want you to tell the manager how badly injured they are. If they’re having a hard time at home then that’s not information I’ll go share with the manager.

“If one of their children is unwell they can sit and talk to me. Lots will come and say ‘can I ask you a couple of questions? My sister-in-law has just had a heart bypass, how long will she be recovering?’ You build up a very good relationship because you’re with them for that length of time and you’re their only port of call.”

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