Euro 2020(1) Live: England vs Scotland, So Help Me God
On the 30th November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent, the home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, an event took place the significance of which was almost certainly lost on the 4,000 people who attended it. The first chairman of the Football Association, Charles W Alcock, had placed advertisements in Scottish newspapers two and a half years earlier calling for Scottish players to join together to take on a representative team from England. The result of this was five test matches, all played in London between March 1870 and February 1872, which resulted in three English wins and two draws.
These matches were criticised in Scotland. Not only had all of them taken place in London, but there was resentment in Scotland that their team did not contain more players based in Scotland, with the team did represent Scotland being made up entirely of English-based Scots and players of Scottish descent. Alcock’s response to this criticism was to issue a new challenge, to field a team made up of players based on Scotland for a fresh match. One Scottish club took up the challenge. Even though there wasn’t yet a Scottish Football Association – that didn’t follow until March 1873 – Glasgow-based Queens Park agreed to field their team for a match scheduled for St Andrews Day 1872.
The match finished in a goalless draw, but both teams were widely praised for the quality of football on display. With the formation of the SFA a few months later, the England vs Scotland match became an annual fixture that last until 1989. International football was born, but since then meetings between the two have been noticeable for their scarcity, rather than anything else. These two nations have played each other 113 times over the last 149 years, more than any other two international teams, but only seven of those meetings have come since 1989, and they haven’t played each other at all since a 2-2 draw at Hampden Park in June 2017.
On paper, of course, England should win and they should do so comfortably. In almost every area England have greater resources – more money, more clubs, a far greater pool of players from whom a best eleven can be selected, as you might expect from a country with ten times the population of Scotland – but the word “should” is doing a lot of heavy lifting, there. Everybody knows that it’s often not as simple as that. In their previous 113 meetings, Scotland have lost seven fewer games than England, and there may well be a thesis to be written on why this should be. What we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty is that, in terms of this particular tie, Scotland have performed above themselves, arguably since that very first fixture.
Some might argue that Scotland’s best chance this evening rests in the intangible, in “spirit”, “heart”, and “determination”, but England’s recent performances haven’t exactly been stellar, with their last three matches resulting in three 1-0 home wins against moderate opposition. It is certainly easy to imagine an evening in which Scotland defend doggedly, England fluff their lines in front of goal, and Scotland secure a win on the break with their only shot of the match. There is, after all, a reason why Scotland 9/1 in the betting in this two-horse race (and no, it’s unlikely that this market will have been distorted by red-faced 55 year old bald men who aren’t allowed access to their kids any more sticking a tenner on England because, “Bettin’ on Ingerland against the Jocks – free money, innit?”)
I’ll be back at about 7.45 to take you through it. In the meantime, here are the teams. Scotland make four changes. Kieran Tierney returns after the injury that kept him out of their first match against Czechia, while Billy Gilmour, Che Adams and Callum McGregor also start. Liam Cooper, Jack Hendry, Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Christie make way for them. Gilmour’s appearance – his full Scotland debut – is particularly interesting, as there has been considerable clamour for him to start this evening. England make two changes – Reece James and Luke Shaw replace Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier.
Right, back in forty minutes or so for an evening that is certain bring out the best in everybody from both sides of Hadrian’s Wall.
England: Pickford, James, Stones, Mings, Shaw, Rice, Phillips, Mount, Foden, Kane, Sterling.
Subs: Maguire, Chilwell, Grealish, J Henderson, Rashford, Trippier, Ramsdale, Coady, Sancho, Calvert-Lewin, Johnstone, Bellingham.
Scotland: Marshall, McTominay, Hanley, Tierney, Gilmour, O’Donnell, McGregor, McGinn, Robertson; Dykes, Adams.
Subs: Gordon, McLaughlin, Christie, Fleck, Cooper, Armstrong, Nisbet, Fraser, Patterson, Hendry, Forrest, McKenna.