FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFICATION
It is not uncommon whenever the England team play in the finals tournament (as they almost always do) to see Scottish people passionately supporting its opponents. The term ‘Anyone but England’ has become a common soundbite amongst Scotland fans whenever a summer football tournament comes around.
These days the Scottish National Team never qualifies for international finals tournaments. Even when it does (as in 1974 and 1978) the non-appearance of England has been a matter of huge celebration for both players and fans alike.
Scotland versus England at football it is not a normal football fixture. Arguably it is the biggest derby of them all – bigger than River v Boca, Milan v Inter or Barcelona against Real Madrid. Back in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s the spring friendly fixture between the two nations was often the highlight of the British football season.
Of course, the history between the two nations goes back much further than a simple football fixture.
The history between the two countries cuts across wars between rival kings, royal marriages and executions. Such was the contrast between the two lands that the Romans constructed a border between the two nations at Hadrians Wall, a location that marked the Roman Empire’s northern border.
This history is symbolised in the official badges of both football associations. The English FA use the ‘Three Lions’, a symbol of the English throne that has been in use going back to the 12th century. It was first used as a standard symbol with three gold lions on a red background. A standard, rallying or gathering point it was carried into battle to inspire troops.
The Scottish FA founded in 1873 incorporated similar symbolism into its association badge. The single lion is representative of the Lion Rampant flag of Scotland. This is an ancient heraldic symbol that goes back to Kings of the 13th century and is representative of the royal coat of arms representative of the ancient Kingdom of Scotland.
Despite the emergence of a Scottish parliament and devolution these days the two nations are linked socially, politically, culturally and economically and have been since 1707. Back in 1603, the royal crowns merged when King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne from Elizabeth I.
These days the battlefields where the two nations met in war are merely tourist sites. The two nations live in peace and are linked by road, air and rail. But the unity between the two has arguably never been more unstable or at least disputed. The 2014 Referendum on Scottish Independence showed that more than half the Scottish population want to remain united with its southern neighbours. Just less than half voted for Scotland to be an independent country.
What we have then is an uneasy alliance between the two if a wholly peaceful one. But very few occasions outside of a political referendum give a theatre for dissent like the Scotland v England international football fixture.
First played in 1872 on a cold St Andrews Day there is no other football fixture in football that has the history of Scotland v England. Scottish nationalism plays a huge role in the desire of Scotland football fans to defeat the England team more than any other rival side with the game being the ultimate clash against the “Auld Enemy”.
While it is hard to separate the two countries from a history that is mired in tales of romantic battle, in a purely footballing context this is the fixture that gave birth to football and its fundamental simplistic basics. The rules of the field, teamwork, skill practice and passing instruction – perhaps combination football – all have roots in the England v Scotland international fixture.
The most obvious words to use to describe the clash is ‘legacy’and ‘tradition’. The impact of both Scotsman and Englishman has allowed the principles of the game to thrive globally both in terms of rules and organisation. The game in England would not have become what it is today with the legacy that Scottish organisers and players left behind.
Only two large wars in World War One and World War II managed to keep Scotland and England apart annually on the football field. The nations managed to play each other every year between 1872 and 1914. As an annual fixture, the game only ended as a yearly tradition in 1989 due to the growth of the global game (more attractive fixtures against France, Brazil and Argentina) and the spectre of organised hooliganism.
On Saturday 10th June 2017 the 114th meeting between the two nations on a football field took place at Hampden Park. Significantly this is where it all began back in 1872 in Glasgow when the first fixture took place in the west of the city at Hamilton Crescent Cricket Ground. It was 1878 before Scotland played England at Hampden Park in a game that witnessed the world’s first international hat-trick.
As it turned out Scotland came close to winning this the 114th clash between the two. In a classic game that exploded into life in the last 10 minutes the Scotland team, led by Gordon Strachan, were denied three World Cup qualifying points thanks to Harry Kane’s injury time equaliser.
A win for Scotland would have been dramatic especially so given that the Scots had failed to create many openings in the tie. Arsenal striker Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had given the England side the lead thanks to a close-range finish that went through Craig Gordon. If there was any doubt as to what the game meant to England in could be seen in the goal celebrations of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The sub celebrated in front of Scotland fans located in the East Stand as drinks by the dozen rained down on him.
That goal had put England seemingly on easy street and Scotland resigned to another defeat in what has been a desperate qualifying campaign. But Scotland turned a largely undistinguished game upside down in the closing 3 minutes thanks to two spectacular Leigh Griffiths free-kicks which ended up to the left and right of Joe Hart.
Only that last minute goal from the free-scoring Kane prevented more wild celebrations from the Scotland fans who had been whipped into a total frenzy thanks to the Griffiths free kicks.
This was a match that witnessed all that is good in football at least from a spectators’ perspective. Goalkeeper uncertainty in the shape of Joe Hart, frenzied goal celebrations and the last minute equaliser for the visitors from Spurs striker Harry Kane.
Never a fixture noted for its skill and more for its passion and endeavour this game was a fitting tribute to a truly historical fixture. One that has filled the passion of thousands of football fans since a cold day in 1872.
England: Hart (5), Walker (7), Smalling (6), Cahill (6), Bertrand (7), Dier (6), Livermore (6), Lallana (6), Alli (6), Rashford (5), Kane (7). Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain (7), Sterling (7), Defoe (n/a)
Scotland: Gordon (5), Tierney (8), Berra (6), Mulgrew (7), Robertson (7), Brown (7), Morrison (6), Anya (7), Armstrong (6), Snodgrass (6), Griffiths (8). Subs: McArthur (6), Fraser (6), Martin (6)
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy)