When you mention England against Scotland, a few things start to swirl around in your mind.
Suddenly, bearded men jumping over Hadrian’s wall wearing tartan kilts spring to mind. Medieval wars written into both countries folklore defined the early battles between these two proud nations.
But since 1872, when soccer’s first-ever international match took place between Scotland and England in Glasgow at Hamilton Crescent, the fierce rivals have turned to the soccer pitch to do battle.
Yet in recent times somewhat of a truce has been called.
After 14 years without an encounter, today’s “friendly” at Wembley Stadium is long overdue. Scotland beat England 1-0 in a Euro 2000 play-off game when they last met in November, 1999 at Wembley. But England went through to the tournament after a 2-0 win at Hampden Park thanks to two Paul Scholes goals. The Scots have been claiming a morale victory and bragging rights ever since.
However, when the final whistle blows in North London tonight we’re not sure when we will see this fixture again. There are no plans in the next few years for another encounter.
I’m okay with that.
Absence has certainly made the heart grow fonder in the case of this rivalry. For too often in the 1970s and 80s England ans Scotland squared off in Home Nations tournaments — a yearly competition which saw England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland play against each other to decide who ruled the British Isles — and dire games threatened to throw the rivalry into the history books. Various Scottish wins at Wembley saw fans invade the pitch and famously snap the crossbar in half after Scotland won 2-1 in 1977.
Ah, the good old days are about to return.
The “auld enemies” have never gone this long without a game against each other during the last 141 years. This rivalry has never been a friendly encounter and don’t expect today to be any different. The last time they met in a friendly was 1973 when England won 5-0 in Glasgow. Will there be a similar scoreline tonight?
Some would argue that it’s a bigger game for Scotland than England. They’re on the rise again under new manager Gordon Strachan after beating Croatia away from home in a World Cup qualifier last-time out. They’re improving and want a marquee win against their bitter rivals to get the nation on their side.
A win against England at Wembley would do wonders for the morale of the “Tartan Army,” Scotland’s loyal band of supporters who follow them across the globe. While England need to kick on to try and qualify for the World Cup next summer. Scotland have no chance of doing that.
Their big game on the horizon happens today.
This is the longest period of time in history that the two nations have gone without playing each other. From 1989 to 1996 they didn’t play a game and from 1939 to 1947 they didn’t square off due to the Second World War. But other than those elongated periods of sparseness, this rivalry flourished on an almost yearly basis from the late 19th century and all the way through the 20th.
But a whole generation of English and Scottish fans have gone without this rivalry. They’re excited for its returns and are probably tired of hearing long-winded tales about the wins of the 70s and 80s. Looking back, some of the ginger mullets and perms on both teams were a sight to behold. But let’s try and stay on topic…
So, the first battle between these two nations in the 21st century promises to be a sight to behold. England will want to put on a show and put Scotland in their place, while the Scots will scrap and fight for every ball and hit the Three Lions on the counter-attack. They will also be spurred on to not be embarrassed and do their nation proud. On Tuesday night the respective nations Under-21 sides faced off at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane. England beat Scotland 6-0. All of a sudden, more pressure has been heaped on the Scots shoulders.
It will be a brooding and fiery atmosphere at Wembley on Wednesday.
Whoever wins this one will have the bragging rights for quite some time. Scotland? Or England? Who will prevail as the original Battle of Britain finally returns.