In decades gone by, England versus Scotland signified the Battle of Britain; a deep rivalry both on and off the pitch. In recent years both national sides have seen something of a demise, which has resulted in a considerable loss of passion by fans and players alike. Going into Friday night’s World Cup Qualifier at Wembley, I must ask does anyone care for this fixture anymore?
It’s the first meeting between the two since August 2013, debutant Ricky Lambert’s header secured a 3-2 victory for the Lions in a meaningless yet entertaining friendly. Both squads have changed considerably since then, but it’s still clear that neither side is a patch on what they have historically been; no Dalglish or Gazza, instead there’s Barry Bannan and Danny Drinkwater.
Both teams have gradually fallen from grace, but Scotland in particular have seen a torrid past 10-15 years, with no appearance in major competition and a string of bang average squads. It’s been tough for faithful Scots. As the only British country not to qualify for Euro 2016, they have been surpassed as England’s greatest home nation rivals. There is no real desire for the hosts to get one over on their northern neighbours, which could potentially work in Scotland’s favour.
In terms of World Cup Qualifying, England will be hoping to build on their seven points, whereas the visitors will look to bounce back from a disappointing 3-0 loss in Slovakia last time out. The group should be relatively simple for England, but it’s potential banana skins like these that they will have to be wary of in order to qualify as winners.
The main reason for a lack of passion and desire around these all-British fixtures is primarily down to the fact that players don’t get paid for it. Professionals these days are far more money focused than they used to be, with goal bonuses more of an incentive than wearing their nation’s shirt. It makes for a negative attitude in the players and is subsequently reflected amongst us as fans, who seem to have as little interest as the players do.
As an England fan, I’m also discouraged by having Gareth Southgate as manager. He is just yet another mundane face to an equally uninspiring generation of English footballers with no real plan of action for his side. I imagine these opinions are mirrored north of the border with Gordon Strachan.
Like most, I still find the energy to support the Lions, but with much less enthusiasm than at club level. Friday’s game should be a straightforward one for England, but the Scots will be in full voice trying to urge their boys to victory in a match that could make or break their qualifying campaign. We can probably expect a boring encounter with chances few and far between, I’m going for 2-0 England.