Today is the day that will see England and Scotland clash at Wembley Stadium in the European Championships. The former certainly had a better start to the campaign than their bitter rivals but all could change after ninety plus minutes of nail-biting tension in the English capital. From the very first official international game to that famous goal from the one and only Paul Gascoigne that us English folk can’t stop talking about, here is the history of this massive fixture…
Starting in chronological order and the first date on the timeline of this fixture comes from 1872. The English FA, in a bid to truly be the side that created the sport, challenged the Scots to a game and allowed them the home advantage too. At the West of Scotland Cricket Ground, the pair played out a nil-nil and whilst that is hardly an exciting result, its’ significance was unbeknownst to both parties involved at the time.
After an embarrassing scoreline from the perspective of England in 1928, nearly a decade later, the famous Hampden Park fixture took place in front of a staggering number of supporters. A reported figure of 149,000 people, although it would seem that there were even more in attendance, packed into the stands of Scotland’s iconic stadium to see a late spur from the Scots secure a 3-1 win.
Fast-forwarding to post-WW2 and the pendulum had definitely swung in the favour of the Three Lions, just short of 100,000 people being in attendance when a Jimmy Greaves hat-trick was part of Wembley’s highest scoring match. The likes of Bobby Robson and Johnny Haynes also getting in on the action for England in a 9-3 thumping of their noisy neighbours. It really does seem like a back and forth quarrel when you look through history, the obvious high for either being England’s 1966 World Cup glory. Less than twelve months later though, Scottish fans gave themselves the tag ‘champions of the world’ as they overcame Sir Alf Ramsey’s side 3-2, Jack Charlton scoring despite having a broken toe being a mere consolation for the World Cup holders.
Between ’66 and ’96, there was the game which ended with a broken crossbar as well as some very low lows for England, but now to the infamous Euro 96 meeting of the two at Wembley Stadium. From the bellowing of the national anthems, to the final whistle, you could cut the tension in air with a knife. That Gazza goal changed football in this country as we know it. The Premier League era had just recently been ushered in and in spite of the media trying to tear him down, Gascoigne captured the hearts of a nation with passion and sheer ability on the ball. Shearer and Sheringham were prolific in front of goal in that tournament, both of them scoring braces against the Dutch being a highlight, but that didn’t take the shine off of Gazza’s tournament.
That game saw Shearer open the scoring with a header, Gary Neville providing a perfect cross. A rash Tony Adams tackle gave the Scots an opportunity to get back level, David Seaman had other ideas though. The Arsenal goalkeeper denied Scotland captain Gary McAllister with a splendid save, and there wasn’t too long between this miss and the iconic second. Gazza’s instinctive flick up and then the pin-point volleyed finish. That goal will remain in the folklore of the English national team for centuries to come and rightly so, especially given the criticism that was often directed at him. The dentist chair celebration made it all the more sweeter, rubbing it into the faces of the media that were hounding him, trying to tear down the poster boy.
There have been a number of meetings since then but none of any huge significance. Given that the 1998 World Cup was Scotland’s last appearance at a major tournament, the two have only met in friendlies or, at a push, qualifiers. Talking of qualifiers and a 2017 game in the build-up to the World Cup that following year saw quite the stir. It was pretty boring with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal being the difference between the two sides until Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths stepped up to the plate. Two free-kicks in the dying embers of the game, in a three minute time-span past Joe Hart sent the Hampden Park faithful into raptures. It wasn’t too late for England to salvage a draw though, Harry Kane having the final say as he turned home a Raheem Sterling cross.
England versus Scotland is just hours away now and the pair will meet at Wembley Stadium, a result for the latter keeping their hopes of qualifications alive. Can Steve Clarke’s side throw up a surprise or will Southgate’s men continue to roll on?