On November 11th 1916, World War 1 or the ‘Great war’ as was known then was in full flow, a 4 year conflict which was one of the bloodiest in European history.
The poppy has since been a symbol of remembrance for all conflicts, a time to reflect and respect the efforts of our brave service man and women regardless of your political stance of the conflict in question.
And it is on November 11th that two fierce rivals England and Scotland take to the pitch in a World Cup qualifier amongst the backdrop of FIFA disobedience from the FA.
Given the recent form of FIFA with a list of corruption and bribery cases longer than my arm as well as the next two world cups taking place in countries with atrocious human rights records, it seems foolish that they would try an interject their power on whether England and Scotland are able to wear the poppy on Friday night.
The ironic thing is football and World War 1 have a close affinity as the English and the Germans threw down their arms on Christmas day in 1914 and played a football match in no man’s land, it is actually quite a fitting tribute.
The poppy is not a political symbol, instead a symbol of remembrance, similar to a minute’s silence that we see on many an occasion in football.
Indeed I am pleased that the FA has shown some back bone and continued with plans to wear the poppy on the black armband regardless of what punishment FIFA throw their way.
Aside from the poppy story however, there is a match being played, and it is a game that could perk up interest once again in an international scene which is at its lowest point in recent memory.
It is another chance for Gareth Southgate to prove he is the man to take the England role full time and indeed some papers are reporting a victory against Scotland will firm up that role for Southgate.
There was welcomed news for England record goal scorer Wayne Rooney with Southgate confirming he will be captain for Fridays match. Rooney recently scored a great goal for Man United in what was a poor team performance in the Europa league, but also played probably his best game of the season at the weekend against Swansea where he seemed to have a bit more confidence and drive.
“He’s in a better place than he was for the last get together in terms of his sharpness, confidence,”
England have been bolstered by the return of Harry Kane who netted in the North London derby at the weekend. Jack Wilshire has also staked his claim to be back in the starting XI but Southgate remained tight lipped in the press conference on who will make the starting line-up.
England and Scotland have met on 112 occasions since 1872, England winning 47 times and Scotland winning 41. England have the better of recent meetings however winning 12 of the last 17 meetings, it would be hard to see any other result on Friday night if England hit their stride.
England last played Scotland at Celtic Park in November 2014, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opening the scoring and Wayne Rooney’s grabbing a second-half double, England running out 3-1 winners.
England currently lead group F with 7 points from a possible 9 having already played the toughest fixture in the group on paper at least. Scotland have picked up 4 points from the 9 on offer so far.
A win against England would really get Scotland amongst the pack jostling to get out of the group and Gordon Strachan will know this, something I’m sure will make part of his pre match team talk.
But it will be a tough ask for Scotland with such a vast gulf in quality between the 2 sides perhaps the biggest gap ever. The 25 man England squad is valued at around £252m whilst the Scotland squad cost under £67m. However this is international football and anything can happen. England of late have not been playing very well given the issues off the pitch with new managers coming and going things have been unsettled. It is as good a time as any for Scotland to get anything out of the game and they will try to do so by being defensively well organised to frustrate England whilst aiming to be clinical with any chances that will come their way. Gordon Strachan knows this all too well.
“My players are intelligent enough to understand the fixture,” “I don’t think I have to show them anything. “They know the fixture, everybody knows the fixture. It’s known throughout the world. So I don’t have to show them the importance.”
Our 3 favourite England v Scotland encounters:
- England 1 Scotland 5, Wembley, March 31, 1928 – the Scotland slide were dubbed the Wembley Wizards after this fine victory with a hat trick from Alec Jackson
- England 9 Scotland 3, Wembley, April 15, 1961 – Scotland biggest defeat against England in a game that saw the impressive Jimmy Greeves score a hat trick
- England 2 Scotland 0, Wembley, June 15, 1996 – This game at Wembley at Euro 96 will always be remembered for the incredible Paul Gascoigne goal and legendary celebration. This game had everything even a penalty save, David Seaman stopping Gary McAllister. This game also saw 90’s conman, I mean TV personality, Uri Geller claiming he made the ball move off the penalty spot with his mind!
At a time where international football in England is at an all-time low, this game might be the one beacon of light that raises passion and interest levels. It’s a game that could see Scotland really get in the mix, or England really start to stretch their legs in this group.
Whichever way the result goes, it is a great occasion and will be fiercely contested.
But for me, this game is more than just 3 points on offer, its more than another meeting between the longest rivalry in international football, it will be an occasion where the two teams come together to acknowledge the sacrifices given by many service men and woman so we are able to comfortably watch this game in the comfort of our home. The respective FA’s standing up to FIFA shows that there is still a morale aspect in the game and regardless of the result, the poppy storm that preceded the match will always be remembered in the future when this game is discussed. Let just hope we also get a good game to go with the occasion.
By Michael Thatcher