fitba special edition
AULD ENEMY Wednesday 14th August 2013 Wembley Stadium Kick off 8pm
Reflections on 40 years of Scotland v England By Bill McMurdo
ike many other Rangers fans, I fell out of love with the Scotland national side a long time ago. However, I remember vividly growing up as a boy when the annual tussle between Scotland and England was a big deal.
Part of my football education included going to watch Scotland with my old man. It just followed on naturally from supporting the Gers that you also followed Scotland. Changed days indeed. Back then, the national anthem was still God Save The Queen and in the 1970s it started to get booed by the Scotland fans. I am told by older guys that this was not so prior the 70s but I can’t vouch for that. All I know is I supported Rangers and Scotland. My first game against the Auld Enemy was a 5-0 thumping at Hampden on a bitterly cold February night in 1973. It was a game to celebrate the centenary of the SFA but it was a dismal showing by the Scots. Another 5-1 tanking at Wembley in 1975 sticks in the memory but there were happier highlights, including a 2-1 Wembley win for Scotland in 1977 and who can forget Kenny Dalglish’s winner for Scotland in 1976 with a shot that trundled through Ray Clemence’s legs? Beating England in the Home Championships was a great way to sign off the season, regardless of how your team had performed during it. My own recollections were that the Scotland support in those days had a majority of Rangers fans in their ranks and, unlike today, there was no dichotomy or conflict of interest in fervently supporting both the Light Blues and the Dark Blue shirts of Scotland. The Wembley years were the most frenzied as thousands of Scots used to love descending on the capital for the big occasion. A Scotland win was an ideal cause for celebration, but a victory for the Sassenachs meant a chance to drown your sorrows. These were happy days in a footballing sense and, especially after 1967, Scotland teams were more than capable of matching England and beating them. There was nothing like the gulf in quality there is today. Or, should I say, perceived to be today. The rivalry back 2
then was strong but less tinged with bitterness and political views. Post-Argentina, the fervour for international games dissipated and a shamed, humbled Scotland lost its appetite for the annual big clash against England. In 1984 – yes, that long ago – the Home Championship contest was scrapped and the focus of Scottish football from an international perspective stopped being the comparative pacing with England and switched to a far more healthy preoccupation with qualification for tournaments that matter. Sadly, this new focus has not resulted in great success, but it broke Scotland away from being a team defined by its last result against our near neighbours. Since 1984 two momentous battles have taken place in competitive terms – the 1996 dismantling by England of a decent Scotland side at Wembley in Euro 96 and the epic two-header in 1999 to qualify for Euro 2000. The Hampden leg of this was one of the most intense atmospheres I have ever observed from a football point of view. And now the old protagonists are about to lock horns again. Scotland boss Gordon Strachan wants it to be a regular thing again but that is probably a nostalgic longing for an age long past. This latest encounter will be played out against a backdrop of political unrest as Scotland gears up for an independence referendum next year. Whether or not this adds extra spice to the occasion remains to be seen. For some nationalistminded Scots, it may be a big factor in their support. For me as a typical bluenose and Unionist, the fixture will not hold the appeal it once did. My support for England flows naturally from the simple fact that they still play the only anthem I recognise as being mine. I wish Scotland would adopt GSTQ as our anthem again. Then I could roar my head off in passionate support like I used to as a boy. Yes. I know I am out of step with that and will get pelters for saying it. I would love to go back to the simpler days when, like most wee boys, you supported your own team and Scotland. For some, that is still the case but Rangers fans have a far more complex relationship with our national side. My own preference would be a Team GB or even the footie equivalent of the British Lions. But that is also unlikely. One thing is for sure. Scotland against England is a magical fixture in the history of football and is always compelling. As for the upcoming game, I predict a Scotland win. England aren’t all that great and Scotland have a point to prove. I only hope that if Scotland do win we don’t see Wee Eck delving into his wife’s handbag...she scored twice, one of them a long-range chip. The Irish manager described her as the jewel in the crown.”
Jack the Lad is England’s main man By Alan Rennie
he English media are notorious for building players up before knocking them down. Especially from our Scottish point of view, we enjoy being sceptical with the hype the English press use around their national football team.
Over the last few years, they have enjoyed telling anyone who will read/listen that Jack Wilshere is the ‘next Gascoigne’. Their main man. Their new hope. Do they never learn? We’ve heard this all before about the so-called ‘golden generation’ who failed to live up to their hype as they crashed out of numerous major tournaments as soon as encounter a team who are any good. Is pinning their hopes on Wilshere more misguided optimism? Or this time, is there justification for the hype? Having a player that can pass the ball is a good start. England, generally, don’t pass well as a team and frequently surrendear possession as a result. This flaw is magnified against the top sides in the world. As a result, in these matches England does a lot of chasing and defending and generally lose. Or draw, before losing on penalties. It was no coincidence that England’s best performance under Roy Hodgson came when Jack Wilshere was in the team and at the heart of everything. It came against Brazil at Wembley in February this year. Wilshere was the star of the show as they won the game 2-1. He played in a midfield three alongside Tom Cleverley with Steven Gerrard sitting deep behind them. It was a rare sight indeed. The team played with energy, movement, fluency, drive and spark. The performance was all about Wilshere and the way he took the game to the opposition. It was Wilshere at his best. He has the football ability to drive a team forward, something he did well at Arsenal in his breakthrough season. He played in a deep-lying passing role alongside holding midfielder Alex Song. He has Cesc Fabregas playing as the attacking midfielder ahead of him and the Spaniard would talk Wilshere through games. With Song and Fabregas departing for Barcelona (and some trophies), the onus has been on Wilshere to be the driving force in the Arsenal midfield. It seems to be a role he relishes, however at just 21-years of age, being the midfield hub for 6
club and country is hardly ideal for a player still developing. Jack Wilshere was played 62 times for Arsenal and 7 times for England. Ideally, at his age and relative inexperience, it appears crazy that he should be the midfield linchpin of any team. The lack of games is largely down to injury worries. In 2011 a stress fracture in his ankle kept him out of the entire football season, including Euro 2012. He somehow appears the type of player that is prone to injury with niggles keeping him out from time to time. Wilshere’s temperament needs channelled also. At times, he can get frustrated and niggle away or recklessly dive into tackles. This was exactly how he was sent off playing for Arsenal at Manchester United last season. Over time, these issues should clear themselves naturally as he matures on the pitch mentally and physically. However, there is a much bigger issue that needs to be answered if we are to see Wilshere realise all of his potential: what kind of player is he going to be? How do you get the best out of him? His best performances at Arsenal have been sitting deep alongside a holding midfield player, whether it has been Alex Song or Mikel Arteta. In this role, Wilshere can help win the ball back and drive the team forward. In this role, there is more space for him to operate as his attacking midfield players drag the opposition midfielders out of position with forward runs. Being a transition or deep-lying player suits the way he plays. He is more involved and crucially, he has the tactical discipline to help the team when they don’t have the ball. Few players offer so much action as part of their performance. On many occasions last season, Arsene Wenger used Wilshere in a more advanced ‘number 10’ role in the Arsenal 4-2-3-1. Wilshere has the talent to play the position and play it well. However, with him in this role, you lose so many of the attributes that could make Wilshere special. Is there enough of a goal-threat to for him to play that high up the pitch? Perhaps he was still finding his feet in a new position but it didn’t seem natural. No English player since Wayne Rooney has had so much expectation placed upon him at a young age. Although Rooney has forged a very good career with club and country, it’s difficult to justify that he has become as good as the English media predicted. Wilshere’s career has had a promising start but it is in everybody’s interest to step back with the pressure and the hype. Find his position and role within a team and just let him play. Currently however, it’s crazy to place so much hope and faith on a 21-year-old who has not yet played 100 career matches.
Scotland v England: Head to Heads By Mark Godfrey
cotland and England renew international football’s oldest rivalry for the first time since the European Championship play-off decider in 1999 when the Scots visit Wembley on August 14th. The friendly is part of the English FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations and comes on the eve of the Premier League’s opening weekend and just two weeks into the new SPFL season. The Scottish, in transition under relatively new manager, Gordon Strachan, are trying to rebuild their reputation on the international scene having slipped down to 50th place in FIFA’s world rankings behind the likes of Burkina Faso and Albania, while England, who for so long occupied a spot in the top ten, now ‘languish’ in 14th. Both squads lack the quality and depth of former eras, reflecting the dearth of top-class homegrown players in the domestic leagues north and south of the border. Scotland must do without the two Fletcher’s; captain Darren is still battling the effects of his serious bowel condition while Sunderland striker, Steven, is still recovering from ankle surgery and won’t be risked at such an early stage in his recovery. England’s squad, whilst underwhelming to their followers, is at virtual full strength. Even Wayne Rooney, who has sat out most of Manchester United’s pre-season schedule with hamstring and shoulder injuries which are suspected decoys to cover up his ostracism from David Moyes’ preparations for United’s new campaign, is available and likely to play a part in the game. Here are some of the head-to-head’s I feel are likely to shape the pattern of the match:
Gary Cahill vs. Shaun Maloney The Chelsea centre-back has usurped club colleague, John Terry, for both club and country, becoming a regular since Roy Hodgson took over as England boss. Hodgson seems to have settled on Cahill and Everton’s Phil Jagielka as his central defensive partnership. While the two have been in great form for their respective clubs, their effectiveness at international level is yet to be proven and both have suffered from being caught out of position more regularly then they are in the Premier League.
Cahill, a very capable ball player and a menace in the opposition penalty area from set-pieces, is usually the one who steps out from the back to launch attacks and the first line of defence he will meet is likely to be Shaun Maloney. The Wigan schemer plays in the space between midfield and forward lines and when Scotland don’t have the ball, he will patrol the halfway line to limit Cahill’s forays up the park. In return, the diminutive playmaker should prove a worry to Cahill when in possession. If he can position himself in the gaps behind the English midfield, Maloney can capitalise on the uncertainty still present in the back four and find plenty of room to play his natural, creative game.
Michael Carrick vs. James Morrison The key to this game rests squarely in the midfield battle. Both managers will feel this is where they have strength in depth and Hodgson has come to rely heavily on the Manchester United man. Having brought Carrick back from the international wilderness, he is now one of the first men on the team sheet for Hodgson. His link-up play and range of passing is seen as vital to release England’s attacking weapons in more advanced positions, but for club and country, Carrick’s rhythm can be upset if sufficient pressure is applied. Strachan will view Morrison’s contribution as crucial in knocking Carrick and subsequently, England, out of their stride. The West Brom midfielder had his best season in the Premier League last year bringing all-action performances and goals into his repertoire. If Morrison can set about Carrick in terrier-like fashion, the Scots can force England back towards their own goal giving them more opportunities to put pressure on the potentially frail defence.
Rickie Lambert vs. Grant Hanley England’s newest call-up could also be in line for his first start in the national shirt. The Southampton target man ended last season as the highest scoring English player in the Premier League and confounded many doubters who thought the big Scouser couldn’t cut the mustard at the top level. Having played his entire career in the lower leagues, Lambert has developed immeasurably as a player in his time on the south coast. Far from being just a man you can ‘lump’ the ball to, he has a deft touch, good vision and is a lethal finisher. Hanley must be wary should Lambert drop deeper than expected. The Blackburn centre-half will be more than ready for any aerial battle with Lambert but must take care not to be dragged away from his station leaving gaping holes for England’s speedy attacking midfielders to waltz right into. Hanley will also have to beware and not give Lambert any time to turn and face the Scotland goal from distance. The striker, who possesses an explosive shot, never needs a second invitation to shoot from range. Hanley will have his hands full with his older, more experienced rival. 9
© Phil McCloy
Playing for Scotland is an honour and a privilege By Joelle Murray
he “Auld Enemy” clash is looming and Wednesday night’s game is shaping up to be a very interesting one. We haven’t had great results in the run up to this “friendly” however form goes out the window in games like these.
I’m sure everyone involved in the national team motivates themselves in their own way, however this game will be very special and one no-one in a Scotland jersey will want to lose. It’s bragging rights between players involved with English clubs or players who have English team-mates and a sense of pride. Being involved in Scotland - England games as a national player at U17, U19 and Ladies level, I can understand some of the emotions these players will be going through. Feelings such as nervousness and anxiety are ever present up until kick off and until you get your first touch of the ball. Playing against England is different to any other opposition and the willingness to win is increased 100%. I felt very proud to pull on the Dark Bue jersey of Scotland against the English and it’s a memory that I will never forget. One game in particular that sticks out in my mind for all the wrong reasons was the second phase of the U19 European championships where we played England in our first game. I had received two yellow cards in the previous round and therefore ruled me out of what would’ve been at that time the biggest game of my career. The thought of missing the game was horrible and the realisation of what was happening hit me when I was sitting in the stand and the national anthems were ringing out around the stadium. I have since then played against England at various Cyprus Cup tournaments and it’s an honour and privilege and always will be. I hope there will be many more of these encounters to come. I’d like to wish the men’s team all the best on Wednesday and hope they can do the country proud. Joelle Murray is captain of the Hibernian Ladies SWPL side and is also a Scotland international. She has been capped 26 times and scored once. 11
Has the Auld Enemy clash lost its passion? By Andy Muirhead
oes anyone else feel as though Wednesday night’s game is lacking the build-up of previous games between Scotland and England - be it competitive games or friendlies? It just doesn’t feel like an ‘Auld Enemy’ clash - could that be the 14 year gap between the two sides? Or is it more to do with club football taking precedent now? Scotland defeated England in the old Wembley, thanks to a solitary goal from Don Hutchison, however it was not enough to progress to EURO 2000 as Scotland lost the first leg at Hampden 2-0. Can they do it at the new Wembley? Looking at the teams on paper, Scotland have no chance of upsetting the odds, however football is, as they say, a funny auld game’. No one gave Scotland a hope of beating France once let alone twice yet they did it. Anything is possible and with many of those called up plying their trade in the English leagues, the opposition are certainly no strangers. 25,000 Scotland fans will descend on Wembley on Wednesday night, to cheers on their team against their greatest rivals and hoping that at the home of English football, Scotland can upset the odds and rub salt into the wounds of English football after summer they really want to forget. Do I think Scotland can win the game? Well I think the Scottish players want the result more than their English counterparts - although you could see many of both sides not getting stuck in properly, with the Premier League season upon us. Any Scottish player thinking that will hopefully be read the riot act by Gordon Strachan or at least hit with it to knock some sense into them. Such games are not important in the grand scheme of World Cup qualification, but bragging rights are a totally different matter. I lived in England from 1995 to around 2000 and during that time I had to endure defeat after defeat at the hands of the English, but when that Hutchison goal went in at Wembley all those past results disappeared and us Scots living in exile at that time, could proudly walk around the English towns and cities with our heads held high, despite failing to progress. Wednesday night’s game will not make up for the abysmal Craig Levein era and the failure to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next year, but it will give the players, the fans and above all the nation a boost as the qualifying stage for the European Championships in France 2016, fast approaches. 12
Published on Aug 12, 2013
Published on Aug 12, 2013
Brought to you by Scotzine. We look ahead to Wednesday night's Scotland v England international 'friendly' at Wembley stadium.