Tonight, Scotland and England join together to play a one-off friendly at Celtic Park, reigniting one of the most passionate rivalries in world football. In response to last year’s tie at Wembley, the SFA agreed to host their English neighbours for a return friendly in Glasgow.
Last year’s showpiece event saw England claim a 3-2 victory over their arch-rivals, narrowly beating a Scotland side that produced an impressive performance on the day. But now, back on home soil, many feel it is the Scots’ time to prove a point to their cousins south of the border.
The two teams named relatively strong line-ups for their respective qualifiers and tonight’s friendly. Perhaps the biggest surprise for England is the return of Stewart Downing after a lengthy absence from international duty. Downing, of West Ham United, had not represented the national side since 2012 when Roy Hodgson announced the squad, and could very well feature against Scotland barring any late injury scares.
Elsewhere, Arsenal fans could delight in seeing six of their team called up for international duty, including Theo Walcott who has only recently returned from injury; a rare achievement, but one which reflects well on the Gunners.
For Scotland, a surprise pick occurred in the form of Lewis MacLeod, 20, who was named in Gordon Strachan’s squad for the first time in his career. The Rangers youngster has impressed this season in the Championship.
Many would say he deserves a chance, although some fans of other clubs questioned the decision to include such an inexperienced player,while leaving other players at home. Whatever the reason, one can certainly guarantee that he will be eager to make it onto the pitch.
The England-Scotland rivalry has a vibrant history, but most would agree it is one played in good spirit. The first ever tie, back in 1872, ended in stalemate, but there have been plenty of thrilling moments since then.
England have fared better out of the two, but Scotland have recorded some notable victories as well; victories which live long in the memory. Ahead of tonight’s game, Student Sport looks back at some of the best derby encounters of yesteryear.
Some Scotland fans of the older generation would agree that their most memorable victory over England came in 1967. A year after winning the World Cup, England went into the match unbeaten in 19 competitive matches and Scotland were massive underdogs, despite boasting stars such as Denis Law and Billy Bremner.
With the weight of expectation on the hosts, Scotland took the game in their stride, going 2-0 up with a little over 20 minutes to go. Despite incessant pressure, Scotland managed to hold out for a 3-2 victory at Wembley, ironically being declared ‘unofficial world champions’ in the press.
For Scotland, this result was cherished; the day they came and beat the then World Champions, and fiercest rival, on their own turf.
England fans look back on Euro 1996 with fond memories, but ultimately rueing the fact they came so close to winning the title on home soil. England, as hosts, were aiming for success that year, but an extra
incentive surfaced when Scotland were drawn in their group. The game itself was a spectacle, as England took apart the Scots in front of a jubilant Wembley.
A moment of magic occurred during the game which went down in history as one of the greatest ever derby goals. At 1-0 up, England saved a penalty from Scotland and went chasing for a second in the second half of play. Paul Gascoigne produced an individual piece of mastery, chipping the ball over Colin Hendry before firing into the net.
It was a truly wonderful moment and one of the best performances by an England side. Perhaps Scotland always had their work cut out here against the tournament hosts, but for England the satisfaction of winning never wavered.
What sort of game will we see tonight? Everyone is hoping for a game high on energy and passion, but one can suspect neither side will want to give anything away, especially early-on. While England are firm favourites, the Scots are capable of causing a scare and, backed by 60,000 fans, why shouldn’t they?