The match between Scotland and England is the oldest international in world football and despite the potential unpredictability of this derby class can tell which means a win for England in the World Cup qualifier on Saturday. If you take away the emotion and passion the truth is England are a better football team and by some distance which means they can win this fixture in Glasgow.
Its bizarre to think that Scotland qualified for the 1974 and 1978 World Cup but England stayed at home. Scotland have always had an uncompetitive domestic league but produced great players who moved to England. Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen all had key rolls when Liverpool were the best team in Europe and all three were Scottish internationals. In the 1970’s and 1980’s all the big clubs signed players from Scotland but now its hard to think of a Premier League team that relies on a Scot. I’m not sure Robert Snodgrass counts!
The demise of Scottish international football is a complex issue but its too simplistic to put it down to the lack of public football pitches which is one theory. The Scottish education system has been put forward as another explanation and obviously there is a socio-economic element to the current state of the Scottish game. Whatever the reason its fair to say Scottish international football is at a low ebb. Scotland are currently at number 61 in the FIFA rankings and falling while England are 13th.
There is some disagreement over the validity of the rankings but they are a decent form guide but not comprehensive. Injuries and playing conditions are not reflected in the numbers and each fixture provides a unique scenario. However, a gap of 48 places suggest England are nailed on to pick up three points at Hampden Park at the weekend. The sides are heading in different directions in the context of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and this is almost a must win game for Scotland.
Gordon Strachan is the latest Messiah to take Scotland to the Promised Land but basically he’s been rubbish. He seems one of those great ex-players who are not very good managers. He could be drinking from the last chance saloon and a heavy defeat against the Auld Enemy could be the final nail in his coffin. He could do a job swap with Nicola Sturgeon depending on how things have panned out north of the border this Thursday. England could leave Strachan’s position untenable if they win 5-0.
Its early days in the Gareth Southgate project and its too soon to tell whether he’ll be a Glenn Hoddle, Terry Venables or Roy Hodgson or a combination of all three. He seems sensible and intelligent but those attributes may not motivate young players who are millionaires in their early twenties. It’s a bit of a cliché to suggest Scotland will be more up for it and an early goal for England will dampen enthusiasm on the pitch and in the stands.
Scotland have some decent players but it says a lot that Darren Fletcher is still a key player. Only one defender in the current squad played in the Premier League last season and all the others plied their trade in the Championship or Scotland. England and Harry Kane in particular were hopeless at Euro 2016 but he is one of the best strikers in the Premier League. He will fancy his chances against defenders from the second level and Scotland. Kane to score and England to win to nil is the call.
The Scotland versus England fixture dates back to 1872. England have won 48 times, Scotland 41 and there have been 24 draws. England won the reverse fixture at Wembley 3-0 last November and have won seven of the last eight meetings, scoring 16 goals and conceding four. Some pundits may say Scotland will be more motivated and that might be true but basically England have much better footballers.
The group position means England are certs to qualify for the World Cup and Scotland are out of contention if they lose this match. Scotland won three of the four meetings from 1974 to 1977 but that was when they were qualifying for World Cups and England were not. In the modern era there is a huge gulf in class and that will be reflected in the score line which can be 3-0 to England again.