It’s impossible not to get excited about a clash between Scotland and England, especially when it’s a rare competitive match between these fierce rivals. This is the oldest fixture in international football and to many it is still the greatest local rivalry there is. Going into the match, England were leading the series by 47 wins to Scotland’s 41, with 24 draws, but Gordon Strachan’s men were eager to take a step towards redressing the balance with a win over the Auld Enemy. The match was crucial to both teams’ World Cup qualification hopes with England looking to strengthen their grip on the group and Scotland hoping to gain some ground on the teams at the top of the table.
The day started for us at Heathrow Airport where it was great to see a number of familiar faces along with a few new ones. After a pleasant flight up to Glasgow, our transfer coach was waiting outside the terminal for the short transfer to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Theatreland, ideally situated just a short walk from the very heart of Glasgow. Here the group enjoyed a quick drink in the bar while checking into their rooms and collecting their match tickets from me – so much easier than having to go and queue up to collect them from the FA headquarters.
Once this was all done, we were back on the coach for the transfer down to Hampden Park and the match. Our pre-booked parking spot was right outside the stadium so everyone was able to jump off and head straight into the ground with ease. The atmosphere was already building with large crowds outside the stadium but once inside it became clear why these matches are so eagerly anticipated. Taking our seats to a wall of noise from the Scottish fans sent a shiver down the spine and the noise when the national anthems were sung was formidable.
The match itself began to a huge roar from both sets of supporters but settled down to become a fairly lacklustre affair. Scotland appeared to lack the quality to hurt England but the Three Lions were wasteful in possession and as halftime approached the Scots were the happier with the English fans becoming increasingly frustrated by a disappointing performance, in a match that had been expected to provide a routine victory.
A deafening karaoke session at half time including a rousing rendition of the Proclaimers’ “500 Miles” briefly lifted the mood however the second half started with more of the same and the match looked destined to end scoreless until the introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who within minutes of coming on, jinked round Scott Brown and drilled a shot through a crowd of legs past Craig Gordon into the Scottish net.
It looked like the match was heading for an England victory as the clock ticked round to 87 minutes with the men in red just needing to hold onto the ball and kill off the dying moments. Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths had different ideas, curling two stunning free kicks into the England goal in the space of 3 minutes to send the Tartan Army into rapture. The drama was not yet over though - with the Scots willing the referee to blow for full time and a famous victory, England broke with Raheem Sterling whose cross was volleyed in from close range by Harry Kane to salvage a draw.
The result leaves Scotland in grave danger of missing out on World Cup action once again as they languish 4 points off 2nd place in the group, while England remain in pole position for automatic qualification with away trips to whipping boys Malta and Lithuania and home matches against Slovakia and Slovenia to come in the Autumn.
After the match, our transfer coach was waiting right outside the stadium to whisk us back to the hotel before heading out into town for a few drinks with old friends and some good natured banter with the locals. After this it was back to the hotel for a few hours’ sleep before flying home and, for many, getting ready to travel straight back out again with us to see England take on France in Paris.