Friday 11th November 2016 sees the return of the oldest international football fixture. Neighbouring nations England and Scotland line up at Wembley Stadium for the first competitive fixture between the two since 1999.

The shine has somewhat come off the fixture with the news that traditional kits will not be worn by both sides and some ethical political arguments surrounding the wearing of the ‘Poppy’ on the shirt. Likewise as with any concept of ‘modern football, the ‘ the newer Wembley lacks the atmosphere of the traditional fixtures of old.  Back in the 1970’s, the game was known for colour, thousands of waving flags and unbelievable noise levels from the travelling fans.

What can never be taken away is the history and symbolic nature of the fixture.  These are two countries with a rivalry that was made into a Hollywood award winning movie called Braveheart. A fixture that gave birth to what we know as ‘international football’.

In truth, despite the huge rivalry, both nations have more in common than either side care to admit.  Both sharing a common HClanguage, an easily crossed border and a political system that remains based in London. Football in both countries is so linked it’s impossible to delve into the history of the origins of the English FA and league system without mentioning the role of Scots.

It was way back on Saturday 30th November 1872 at 2.20pm (the fixture had been due to start at 2 pm) that the two nations first met in an official match.  The game was played on a rainy day at a venue still used for cricket and at the time the biggest enclosed sports pitch in the west of Scotland.  Hamilton Crescent, the home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, still exists as a working sports venue in Glasgow’s west end although its hosting of football matches has long since past.

The rivalry between the two has, of course, been diminished somewhat since the highs of 1970’s; a period when the fixture was at its finest in terms of atmosphere, colour and player quality. During the 1970’s it was perhaps THE fixture of all football fixtures whether at international or club level even surpassing the European Cup final for noise, colour if not drama. The anticipation yearly around the fixture culminated in the infamous Wembley pitch invasion of 1977.  Thousands of Scotland fans invaded the pitch and broke the crossbar.

In 1989 the annual fixture stopped being played largely due to sporadic episodes of organised hooliganism both in London and in Glasgow. More specifically by 1990, the growing globalisation of the international football calendar had become popular with meetings between the two disappearing altogether for 10 years between 1989 and 1999.  The fixture during the 80’s very often ended up being a tight affair with very few goals scored and being known only for fan trouble.

As of November 2014, the teams have played 112 matches; England have won 47, Scotland 41, and there have been 24 draws.

Here we take a look at 5 of the most significant matches between the two.

Game 1

Date: 20 November 1872

Venue: West of Scotland Cricket Ground, Glasgow

Att: 4,000

Referee: Keay (Scotland)

Scotland (0)

Bob Gardner, William Ker, Joseph Taylor, James Thompson, James Smith, Robert Smith, Robert Leckie, Alexander Rhind, William MacKinnon, Jamie Weir, David Wotherspoon (all Queen’s Park FC)

England (0)

Robert Barker (Hertfordshire Rangers), Ernest Greenhalgh (Notts County), Reginald Welch (Wanderers), Frederick Chappell (Oxford University), William John Maynard (1st Surrey Rifles), John Brockbank (Cambridge University), Charles Clegg (Sheffield Wednesday), Arnold Kirke Smith (Oxford University), Cuthbert Ottaway (Oxford University/Old Etonians), Charles John Chenery (Crystal Palace), Charles John Morice (Barnes)

Heavy rain had fallen in Glasgow for 3 days before the game but it was a pleasant afternoon by kick-off in the Glasgow Burgh of Partick.  Local fans had paid just a shilling to enter; still regarded a weighty sum considering the average wage of 20s a week.

ticketNearby Hamilton Crescent was Partick Burgh Halls which also opened in 1872 on a site facing the West of Scotland Cricket Club’s ground.  If the halls were built in a distinctly Scottish version of the François I Revival style which was popular at the time then the ground where the football was played was basic.  A single brick wall surrounded the ground and many interested spectators looked on from high on the wall.

It had taken the English team some 6 hours to head north for the game by train. The trip of 400 miles taking its toll on some players, many of whom had never previously ventured this far for a sporting event.

Scotland’s team was selected by Bob Gardner the goalkeeper skipper from Queens Park but the teams most famous player Arthur Kinnaird was unavailable for selection.  While Scotland was represented by eleven men drawn from the one club, England played the match with players from nine different sources. These players were all selected by Charles Alcock the English Football Association Secretary and captain of the FA Cup winning team ‘Wanderers’.

1010930_10201480478920604_1759122113_nThree England players came from Oxford University with one other from Cambridge University, but only Reginald Welch came from the then very successful Wanderers side.   The kits worn were distinctive with Scotland wearing dark blue shirts, the then colour of Queen’s Park, with a single lion crest badge attached.

England appeared in white and had the badge of the three lions on their shirts.

It was Scotland who came closest to victory on the day.  In the final stages of the match, Robert Leckie sent in a shot that landed on top of a piece of thick tape that was strung between the two posts to represent the crossbar.  This though was as near as either side would come to a goal and the match ended goalless.

But the significance of the match was in what occurred afterwards.

Only four months after the international the Scottish Football Association was formed and new clubs started to appear. The matchup at Hamilton Crescent was the start of a rivalry that moved from being a gentlemanly matchup played between public schoolboys to a game that generated passion and needle sharp rivalry.

Game 2

Date: 31 March 1928

Venue: Wembley Stadium, London

Att: 81,000

Referee: William Bell (Scotland)

England (1)

Hufton, Goodall, Jones, Edwards, Wilson, Healless, Hulme, Kelly, Dixie Dean, Bradford, Smith

Scotland (5)

Harkness, Nelson, Law, Gibson, Bradshaw, McMullan, Jackson, Dunn, Gallacher, James, Morton

By the start of the 20th century, the league championships and cup competitions in both Scotland and England had been established.  Players from Scotland had started to venture south to play for well-known clubs like Newcastle United, Liverpool and Aston Villa.

The rules and infrastructure of the game had also advanced since that first meeting at Hamilton Crescent.  In 1875 a crossbar replaced a tape across the posts and in the same year teams were asked to change ends at half time.

In 1925 the offside rule was a firm law of the game but that did not stop England leaking 5 goals to the visiting Scots in 1928.

The match kicked off at 12.30pm on a spring day in London with the Scots hammering five past the English goalkeeper Ted Hufton of West Ham United.  The Scottish side contained some of the greatest ever Scottish players of the day with two of them – Alec Jackson of Huddersfield Town and Alex James then of Preston – sharing the goals.  The great Hughie Gallacher failed to get on the scoresheet but assisted in three of the goals.

The Scottish side of 1928 has gone down in history as the ‘Wembley Wizards’.  And the victory has long been remembered for the slaying of an England side that featured the great Dixie Dean.

Game 3

Date: 15 April 1961

Venue: Wembley Stadium, London

Att: 97,350

Referee: Lequesne (France)

England (9)

Springett, Armfield, McNeil, Robson, Swan, Flowers, Douglas, Greaves, Smith, Haynes, Bobby Charlton

Scotland (3)

Frank Haffey, Shearer, Caldow, MacKay, McNeil, McCann, MacLeod, Law, Ian St John, Quinn, Wilson

england-v-scotland-best-momentsIf the shape of the game was changing in the 1920’s so by the swinging 60’s was the status of the professional footballer.

During the 1950’s a footballer was still the traditional working class hero to many but by the 1960’s the status of the footballer in a more free-willed society was changing rapidly.

By 1961 the maximum wage of £20 had been removed and football players were gaining greater personal freedoms thanks to the ‘retention and transfer’ regulation being overturned in the High Court.

Soon players started to move abroad with many Scottish and English players adventuring to Italy to play for the likes of Torino, AC Milan and Inter.

The annual fixture of 1961 is though very infamous at least from a Scottish perspective. A good team suffered its heaviest ever defeat in the fixture in no small part thanks to the goalkeeping of Celtic’s Frank Haffey who let in 9 goals.

The great Jimmy Greaves scored three times for the English side and Haynes got a double in front of a near 98,000 Wembley crowd.

Game 4

Date: 4 June 1977

Venue: Wembley Stadium, London

Att: 98,103

Referee: Palotai (Hungary)

England (1)

Clemence, Neal, Mills, Hughes, Watson, Greenhoff, Kennedy, Talbot, Channon, Trevor Francis, Pearson

Scotland (2)

Rough, McGrain, Donachie, Forsyth, McQueen, Masson, Rioch, Hartford, Johnston, Dalglish, Jordan

Ten years previously a 3-2 win at Wembley for the Scottish side had seen the Scottish press jokingly announce that the Scots were now the ‘unofficial world champions’.

If the English had been riding a crest of a wave and reached its greatest peak in July 1966 so by the 1970’s the team had sunk to depths not seen for some time.  The nation failed to qualify for either the 1974 or 1978 FIFA World Cups and for the first time in many years the international class of England’s playing squad was being questioned by a TV media panel that could be critical and brutal in its assessment.

england-v-scotland-best-moments-1Coaching wise the role of the manager was changing from the role of guardian of the team to one where organisation and skilled tactical leadership was required. The best managers of the day (Brian Clough) were club managers who could not get anywhere near the England job due to the traditional outlooks of the FA

Even the great Don Revie failed to mould a selection of good quality players into a decent side and the great English club sides of the time were more often than not filled with Scots.   In truth, England had as many if not more quality than the Scots but the weight of distant success weighed heavily on the shoulders of many players.

The 2-1 win of 1977 was particularly significant for two factors.

The first was that 1977 was the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and large scale Union Jack parties were occurring throughout the United Kingdom during the month of June.

But the most telling legacy of the victory were the pitch invasions at full time by the tartan-clad Scottish fans with lion rampant flags.  The crossbar was broken during intense celebrations as thousands of Scottish fans celebrated arguably the Scottish team’s most memorable victory.