Search (Sport)

Thursday, 15 August 2013 00:00

Beattie on Scotland: Gordon Strachan's men must improve if Wembley nights against England are to be more than a once off

Tonight’s meeting with the Auld Enemy is the first this century and Scotland have to change that with improved performances
by Douglas Beattie

Scottish sports comment: For anyone under 30 it would be entirely forgivable should they labour under the misapprehension that Scotland and England meet but once in a dark blue moon.

Indeed they do these days but therein lies the sadness. The Auld Enemy fixture — the oldest in international football — was once an annual backstop to the season going right back to 1872.

Playing England, and indeed Northern Ireland and Wales, in the Home Nations Championship for decades was a true test of our capabilities.

The four-way tournament, at times used for World Cup and European Championship qualifying, was always compelling but when it came to those men in white shirts, occasionally disastrous for the national psyche — think no further than the 9-3 drubbing of 1961.

Therefore when Gordon Strachan and his men take on England at Wembley tonight — in the first clash this century between the sides — they will evoke a kaleidoscope of memories, both bitter and sweet.

I was with Strachan a few months ago at the home of the FA — which is celebrating its 150th year — and he was already looking forward to the resumption of hostilities.

But let us be frank, the English game is now light years ahead of our own. The two countries no longer inhabit the same footballing orbits.

It was not always so, certainly. For one thing the old Scots “professors,” in the Victorian era when the booming new game was being codified, were the ones who realised the value of, quite simply, passing the ball. In a very real sense it was Scotland who gave football to the world.

English clubs would go on to plunder our home-grown talent for much of the 20th century. Not only were the likes of Manchester United, Leeds, Spurs and Liverpool constantly home to a Caledonian contingent, but every club in the land had their “Anglos.”

Dressing rooms across England would, for weeks before and months after, resound to jokes and jibes over the result of the annual cross-border clash.

In that realm the Scots more than punched their weight and not until 1983 did England move in front in the head-to-head record on wins.

The whole thing came to a halt at the end of that decade amid English concerns about hooliganism and the search for wider horizons. When a possible reprise of the Home Nations was mooted a while back the FA were deeply uninterested, leaving the Celtic nations to conjure a dreary get-together in Dublin.

Strachan, and the rest of us who miss those old neighbourly meetings in Glasgow and London on the cusp of summer, should enjoy tonight’s brief flirtation no matter the outcome.

There is little choice but to accept the fact that without a resurgent Scotland there is no prospect of a regular return to the rivalry of the past.

Finances leave no time for TV matches at Rangers

Has the Rangers story become so quintessentially tragic that ghosts of recent times must haunt the present? It would appear so.

The question refers, in the main, to the on-going efforts of Charles Green in making the Govan club look ridiculous.

No sooner had Rangers held a much-needed meeting with supporters in which some deeply troubling issues at last saw the light of day, than the bold Mr Green took it upon himself to suggest a live presidential-style TV debate to decide who runs the club.

What he and everyone at Rangers should be focusing on, however, is the revelation they have no more than £10 million in the bank.

If that sounds like a healthy balance just consider for a moment that £22m was raised in a share issue last December and that the ledger also includes income from season ticket books.

Add to that the comments from former director Dave King, who reckons the Gers “can’t make Christmas” without a fresh injection of capital. A wake-up call if ever one was heard.

With “administration II” starting to enter the lexicon you can be sure that diversions such as TV debates are the very last thing needed.

Showman sprinter Usain Bolt can bring out best of Glasgow 2014

If you want the world to watch you must bring global stars to any sporting occasion. With this in mind suggestions by the Olympic sprint champion — Usain Bolt — that he may run next summer at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games will be sweet music to the organisers.

The danger after the acclaim of London 2012 was that anything in the realm of track and field would feel a little mundane.

Not so if Bolt — who has just triumphed again at the World Championships in Moscow — is in attendance.

The superstar Jamaican, someone who has truly transcended his sport, has never yet featured in the Games, having missed the last two through injury.

Running at Hampden would be “something good to add to the resumé,” he has said with characteristic sangfroid.

Frankly, you just cannot buy publicity of that kind. It would be a packed house should he appear for so much as a trackside stretch.

Bolt has said he wants to try to continue winning medals so he can be “mentioned alongside greats like Pele, Maradona and Muhammad Ali.”

Forget that — win in Glasgow and he may even achieve the kind of status afforded to Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish.

Follow Douglas on Twitter: @alpha_beatt

Search (Sport)