England last faced Scotland at a major tournament in Euro 96 – when England won 2-0
Credit: RUSSELL CHEYNE/REUTERS/GETTY IMAGES
As the England, Scotland and Wales squads begin their final preparations for the European Championships, a trio of former managers of the three countries gathered together to assess their nation’s chances. Glenn Hoddle was England manager from 1996 to 1999, Mark Hughes was in charge of Wales between 1999 and 2004, while Gordon Strachan managed Scotland from 2013 to 2017. As a brains trust the one assembled in front of the Telegraph Sport at Betfair’s headquarters in west London would be hard to beat. And the first question put to the threesome was what they were most looking forward to over the coming weeks.
Gordon Strachan: Just being in the finals. I went as a supporter the last time we got there, to the World Cup in 1998. I remember fans in kilts dancing in every fountain we passed. That’s what we Scots do really well, getting in the local fountain in a kilt. And having our photo taken with the local policeman in our kilt, we’re world class at that. Then, after we’ve had the pictures taken, we go home following the group stage. Seriously. I remember when I played in the 86 World Cup, some of the players had their holidays booked for three days after the final group game.
Jim White: So now Scotland have qualified, how do you think you will fare?
GS: I think Wales and Scotland will qualify from their groups. I genuinely believe that.
Mark Hughes: That’s about the level of our expectation: we’ll do well to qualify.
Glenn Hoddle: With that third place there’s a little extra incentive for Wales and Scotland. With England I’m a bit concerned if we win the group we end up with a really tough route. Better to come second, but you can’t go out and play to come second. Impossible.
GS: The advantage Scotland and England have got is that most of their games will be at home. Wales have tough travelling. For Wales to get through I think it will be the greater achievement.
MH: And the quality of the opposition as well. Turkey and Italy are a tough ask. The key is we have to get some points on the board from the first game against Switzerland. Do that, build some momentum, you never know.
Gareth Bales and Wales face a tough task to get out of their group – one that includes, Italy, Turkey and Switzerland
GH: I think Scotland are going to be a surprise element. If England don’t win their first game there will be a hell of a lot of pressure on them when they then play Scotland.
JW: So can Scotland beat England?
GS: We’re a team with a left back and a midfield. But it’s a good midfield: [Scott] McTominay, [Stuart] Armstrong, [John] McGinn, three who play regularly in the Premier League. And these guys have goals in them. True, it’s never been proven at an international level, or even at Champions League level, but they can do something different. Our goals will have to come from them. And set plays.
GH: With England what I’m concerned about is the defence. Gareth [Southgate] sees that as an Achilles heel, too. [Declan] Rice and [Kalvin] Philips, or Rice and whoever, because I think Gareth will go with the two, have a big responsibility to give protection. Offensively we’re as good as anyone and we should be feared. We have players who can impact. If [Phil] Foden doesn’t start he comes on, [Jack] Grealish comes on, [Marcus] Rashford could be somebody who is a better sub than he is a starter. I think England have that up their sleeve. England may have the third strongest squad, after France and Portugal. We have players who can win you a game, or get you back into a game.
JW: Is there a danger for Scotland of thinking as long as we beat England nothing else matters?
GS: Short answer? Yeah. Emotionally sometimes Scottish players get too up for these games. When I played we always looked more frantic than England somehow. Maybe it was sheer desperation. If I was managing them I’d absolutely try to take the emotion out of it. Mark and I worked under the best manager ever (Sir Alex Ferguson) and he used to tell us: get emotional and you’ll lose the plot. Especially defenders. If you have emotional defenders, they career into things, all over the place.
GH: Have they got an experienced head in there that might settle everyone down though Gordon? Maybe that’s what they miss.
GS: Andy Robertson’s the captain, but he’s an effervescent character, he’s not one to stroll about, like a Graeme Souness. Not many of them play in the Champions League, they’ve not been through all this. Sometimes, if you’re going straight in there it’s hard to deal with. Not just the game itself, but the hype, the media, the expectation.
Scotland don't have many players with Champions League experience – will that count against them at Euro 2021?
Credit: EUROPA PRESS via GETTY IMAGES
MH: There’s always that special feeling when the home countries go up against England. When Scotland and Wales play each other there’s a bit but nothing like the same. Against England it does get emotional, no two ways about it. You fly into tackles that if you had a cool calm head you’d back off.
GS: You can’t be a fan at these games, if you behave like a fan you’ll lose it.
GH: It’s true, there was a desperation from them, you could feel they were desperate to beat us. You’re aware that they get up for these games against England. When they are playing the Three Lions something happens to them. The Irish the same. Everyone hates us.
JW: So how should England approach playing Scotland?
GH: Do what we did. Just take it as any other game. Actually I enjoyed playing them. I scored against Scotland, believe it or not with a diving header.
GS: Was that in the Home Internationals? To be fair they were always rubbish matches. Bobbly pitches, everyone knackered at the end of the season, a lot of tired bodies.
GH: It’s true, they were rubbish games. Though people in the stadium loved them. 100,000 at Wembley roaring on. And most of them were Scots.
JW: Will it help England not having Scottish fans at Wembley, then?
GH: Actually I think it will suit Scotland. They won’t get carried away so much. Won’t have that desperation. That will definitely help Scotland more than England.
England face Scotland at Wembley – will the lack of Scotland fans give them a further advantage?
JW: Will you all relish just watching this tournament as a fan?
MH: Being the manager is a great responsibility, but along with that comes a lot of stress you can do without. So I think we can just enjoy it, yeah.
GS: True, but I think if you just put us in charge again just for the 90 minutes of the game we’d still enjoy it.
MH: Fair point, I’d be delighted with that.
GS: People think the match is the hard bit of being a manager, but actually no, that’s the best bit. Nobody can make a comment, nobody can ask a question, shove a microphone in your face.
GH: You say that, but even in that 90 minutes you’re in the players’ hands. You go on the bench, they go on the pitch. They are the ones who can make or break it. And you.
GS: You still feel totally responsible for every last second. You still think: what can I do here?
MH: Even on the bench you can definitely feel that you have the dreams of three or four million people in your country in your hands.
GH: Three or four million? As England manager you have 60 million. And if your team plays well and wins it’s down to the players. If it goes bad and you lose, it’s all down to the manager.
JW: So which of the three home nations will fare best?
GH: Well, the pressure’s on England. Everyone’s expecting them to go all the way and win it. Semi-final of the World Cup last time; it doesn’t matter how we got there, we got there. We have to go one step better than that. We’re under a lot more pressure than Wales and Scotland.
GS: Yup and it’s your home games, that puts more pressure on you. You have all the advantage.
MH: Wales are in Baku, I can’t see anyone saying there can be any advantage in that.
GH: [Michel] Platini obviously has no Welsh blood in him landing you with that.
JW: But if not a home nation, then, who will win it?
MH: I think we all agree on that. It’s France. Look at the ones who don’t make their squad to see how strong they are. They have that little bit of stardust that can make a difference. Even if the others aren’t functioning there’s always someone in that team who can make a difference.
GS: They can take you on at any game you want to play. Want to play football? They’ll play football better than you. Want to fight? They’ll fight. Want to play in the air? They’ll play you in the air as well. Whatever you want to do, they can deal with it. They are the team everyone else is going to have to beat.
- This Euros Betfair is now offering No Cash Out Suspensions on Match Odds markets, find out more here: