BBC Radio 5 Live pundits and former football internationals Pat Nevin and Danny Mills square up for the latest chapter in the England and Scotland rivalry.
This is the second friendly between the two sides in just over a year. Last August, England triumphed 3-2 at Wembley, with Rickie Lambert scoring with his first touch in international football. Now the two teams, both coming off the back of winning last weekend’s Euro qualifiers, meet again.
I’ve played against England twice. The first game, in 1986, was everything I wanted it to be. Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager, there was plenty of passion from him that day, and everyone was fighting for a place in the ’86 World Cup squad. We were beaten 2–1, and were devastated.
But by the time my second appearance came around – 1989 at Hampden Park, the last of the annual matches between Scotland and England – I came off thinking, “I hope I never play this game again.” It was so dull, there were so many call-offs, and it meant nowhere near as much as it should have.
International football isn’t meant to feel like that: when these teams play it has to mean something. That’s why I’m uncomfortable about having regular fixtures: fans become bored, players don’t turn up. This is the first Scotland v England game in a while that I’m actually looking forward to; there won’t be any Scotland players calling off this time.
Scotland are brilliant to watch again. Gordon Strachan has turned us into an open side: we don’t sit back, we attack. If you watched the smaller nations who played in the World Cup – Chile, Colombia – they all went out and had a right good go. Without being stupid, positivity was rewarded. Scotland have learned that.
Scott Brown has been fantastic for Celtic, and he’s a player who can boss the midfield. Watford’s Ikechi Anya always catches the eye, and I’ve been telling Everton fans for a year that Steve Naismith is a great player. They all laughed at me, so it’s nice to be proved right.
Personally I’ve never understood the antipathy between England and Scotland. But we all know that the rivalry is a brilliant part of football, as long as it stays on the right side. During the 80s it stepped over and there was violence off the pitch. But that doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem now.
Euro qualification means Scotland have bigger worries. Strachan’s side has a genuine chance at qualification for Euro 2016 – the Republic of Ireland match on Friday 14 November that Scotland won 1-0 was by far the most important. There might be a small core of Scotland fans who don’t agree, but Ireland was the pivotal game for Euro qualification.
Having said that, this is all about passion. Scotland may have voted no in September’s referendum, but when I went to Scotland away games just before the vote I don’t think there was one person in that 10,000-strong group of supporters who was openly a “No”. As I was walking along everyone was slapping me on the back. I knew what they were really doing: slapping big “Yes” stickers on my back.
Scottish domestic football looks in trouble: Celtic are struggling. Hibs, Hearts and Rangers are not even in the top flight. The financial outlook is bad.
But look below the top line and there is great news. What tends to happen if you have a bad time financially is that soon after you have a very good time for youth development. Clubs don’t have the money to buy players from abroad. They have no choice but to build from within.
England has just this problem in the Premier League: finances are great, prices are high, but there aren’t many English players, and the ones that are there aren’t getting a game young enough. Scotland has had a financial meltdown three times in the last 20 years, and the answer every time is: “Get the kids in.” Odd though it may seem, England could do worse than look at what’s happening in Scotland.
(Pat Nevin won 28 caps for Scotland between 1986 and 1996)
Danny Mills on England
The referendum showed that although we are the United Kingdom, England and Scotland treat themselves very separately, each with their own firm identity. Nothing makes that more apparent than sport.
England are going through a sticky period, so there’s pride to play for. For a long time England have seen themselves as superior; Scotland haven’t qualified for a major tournament for a long time, so if they were to beat England it would be an embarrassment.
The bonus for England is that it will be more like a Premier League match than an international game. It will be fast and furious, and the referee might have to be a little lenient early on. It is a derby, after all.
Roy Hodgson should select a full team. This is no game for the faint-hearted: Celtic Park will be one of the most hostile atmospheres these young players will have ever played in.
Do they freeze? Do they rise to the occasion? How do they deal with being berated by Scotland fans for 90 minutes? Some players relish that, others will go into their shells. I’d be disappointed if any of Hodgson’s current team are not up for the fight.
If you’re picked for your country, it’s the highest honour that can be bestowed upon you. We had the debate over Raheem Sterling being “tired”, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, who both play an awful lot of games, are doing OK, aren’t they?
If you turn up and are declared fit to play, that’s it. If you’re injured, don’t turn up; I have no issues with that. But don’t arrive, train and then say you’re a little bit tired. Remember, too, the kind of things that Andy Murray said: he’ll support anyone who plays against England. Whether that was said in jest or meant seriously, that’s the sort of rivalry that there is. England and Scotland don’t want each other to do well.
We’re a bit scared at the moment in England, and so we play no-risk football. The team rode their luck against Switzerland [in their first Euro qualifier in September], but they got the win because they had a positive attitude.
I want England to go up there, jump over Hadrian’s Wall, take it to the Scots and see what happens.
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