“Deeply naive of Alex Monro to expect tactics here,” says Ian Copestake. “This is about more than formations and occupying half-spaces with a pivot. This is about taking back control, playing for the shirt, announcing an arrival and establishing a marker. Should be horrendous.”
The pre-match thoughts of Steve Clarke
“I hope we put on a good performance and get a result, because we want to stay involved in the tournament as long as possible. Billy [Gilmour] likes to get on the ball and make his team play – he’s done it for Chelsea and I’m sure he can do it for Scotland as well.
“Playing two strikers here is brave. We’ve got the three central defenders at the other end, so it’s a bit of mix and match. We’ll try to cause England as many problems as we can. I want us to play with fire in our bellies and ice in our brains. England are one of the favourites for the tournament – we respect them, but we don’t fear them.”
“I wanted to see what the team selections would mean tactically, so I googled ‘England Scotland formation’,” says Alex Monro. “It came back with results about 1707. No escaping the history and politics in this one.”
It’s a good thing Steve Clarke didn’t pick Mary, Queen of Scots, or those google searches would have been even more confusing.
“It’s weird to think that, if McAllister had scored his penalty, this would’ve been the big song of Euro 96,” writes Craig Sinclair. “Warning: some industrial lyrics.”
The word ‘industrial’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. I was always surprised this slightly more wholesome offering didn’t take off.
This song, meanwhile, has aged beautifully.
Forty minutes to kick off and the atmosphere is building. There will be 22,500 fans at Wembley tonight, plus half the population of Scotland outside the stadium.
Tonight’s most pressing question
Has anyone won the big cash prize yet?
It finished Croatia 1-1 Czech Republic in the other game. That means… actually I have no idea what it means, but we should have a better idea by 10pm.
“Hi Rob,” says Stephen Davenport. “I’m not sure that I’d trust Nicola Sturgeon on meteorological matters. ‘Even the weather in London is Scottish today’, she says. Because, of course, it never rains in England. And I’m no meteorologist (actually I am literally a meteorologist) but 14 degrees would seem a bit balmy for a rainy Scottish day.”
Maybe she just wanted a nice round of golf tonight.
Scotland have made four changes from the team that lost to the Czech Republic on Monday. Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour, 20, makes his full international debut, while Che Adams, Callum McGregor and the fit again Kieran Tierney also come into the side. Liam Cooper, Jack Hendry, Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Christie miss out. It looks like Scott McTominay will move back into defence.
“Evening Rob, evening everybody,” says Guy Hornsby. “It’s a funny time when I feel so little jeopardy over a game with the auld enemy. And that’s no bolshy English exceptionalism, it’s just a reflection of the protagonists. But… we’ve been here before and really all anyone English will want is a win. If it’s 1-0 after 75 minutes, anything’s possible. It’s going to be a fiery opening 15, that’s for sure!”
David Lacey > anyone who has ever written about football
It’s a mustn’t-lose game!
A few reliable folk are reporting that Billy Gilmour, Che Adams, Kieran Tierney and Callum McGregor all start for Scotland. With that and the rumours that Jack Grealish is in the England team, my neutral mouth is well and truly watered.
This match isn’t the only Big Sport of the night. Long-suffering Scotland fan Scott Murray is
practicing avoidance behaviour covering the golf at Torrey Pines.
Here’s today’s Fiver, which may or may include observations that were subsequently recycled for tonight’s preamble
Croatia 1-1 Czech Republic The other game in this group is taking place as we type/read, and Ivan Perisic has just equalised for Croatia with a banger.
Team news Nothing official yet, though there are rumours that Luke Shaw, Reece James and Jack Grealish will start for England. No news on whether Steve Clarke will do the right thing and pick Billy Gilmour in the Scotland midfield.
Take the best Friday feeling you’ve ever had, multiply it by a thousand and you’re still nowhere near it: England v Scotland in the European Championship, at Wembley, on a Friday night. When the draw was made in November 2019, few of us twigged that England v Path C play-off winners(Wembley) would be such a big deal. It could have been England v Norway, England v Serbia or England v Israel.
Instead it’s England v Scotland, the oldest fixture in international football. The pre-match buzz is electric but also a peedie bit peculiar – the anticipation is as much about the occasion and the history as the actual football. Rightly or wrongly, reasonably or arrogantly, consciously or unconsciously, most people think England will win this match fairly comfortably. That’s rarely the case before such a blockbusting match.
Then again, that’s one of the reasons this fixture has a unique appeal. It’s part historical conflict, part Hogmanay piss-up, part FA Cup third-round tie. Scotland are 9/1 to win, 4/1 to draw – but then the greater the odds, the bigger the opportunity. While England are playing for three points, Scotland are playing for three points and two counts of immortality: a win at Wembley and a giant step towards reaching the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.
The Tartan Army have arrived en masse, having misread the 20:00 kick-off time as an official Uefa request to provide 20,000 of their most determined pleasure-seekers. The mood is great, the weather is crap, the stage is set. May the best team win!