To mark former Rangers and Hearts goalkeeper Antti Niemi’s 50th birthday, the fan who made the viral call claiming the Finland goalkeeper should have been capped by Scotland re-enacted the hilarious exchange with Ally McCoist live on air.
Keith, who said the legendary “He’s not Finnish, he’s only 28!” Line 20 years ago was tracked down by McCoist on the radio. When McCoist found Keith, he got the inside story of the call and revealed it was indeed a transaction.
He said talkSPORT: “I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, Ally, but it was definitely an ending. It was a couple of people I worked with, we always listened to talkSPORT afterwards [Hearts matches] and they were almost easy to pick at.
“The two co-conspirators were my mate and a guy Mick McArdle, Mick is still very involved in football at Ayr United and St Mirren. It’s about time they got some credit for that, but yeah, sadly it was definitely a wind-down I have to say. My phone went crazy because all my friends told me to call this morning.”
McCoist initially doubted Keith’s identity, but after recreating the famous phrase, the Rangers icon was sure it was the same person as it sounded exactly the same. Keith is a Hearts fan who called former Scotland and Manchester United Arthur Albiston who had to tell Keith that Niemi was not Scottish and could not be called up to Craig Brown’s squad.
In 2002, Keith called Albiston and said, “Aye! I don’t know why he doesn’t get a game?”
Albiston: “For Scotland?”
Albiston: “He’s from Finland.”
Keith: “He’s what?!”
Albiston: “He’s Finnish.”
Keith: “He’s not ready yet, he’s only 28!”
Albiston: “No, not ready yet, he’s from Finland.”
Unable to represent Scotland, Niemi failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup but have a chance of reaching the tournament 20 years later in Qatar. Steve Clarke’s side welcome Ukraine to Hampden Park on Wednesday, where the winners will take on Wales at Cardiff City Stadium in a bid to secure a place at the World Cup.
Scotland’s play-off game against Ukraine was originally scheduled for March, the same team, Wales, defeated Austria but was postponed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Many Scots will play Ukraine with mixed feelings when their country is in crisis. Former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Graeme Souness admitted to The Times: “I’m going to find myself in a really difficult situation. i will be emotional Not only do I want Ukraine to qualify, I want them to go there (Qatar) and win.”