The oldest international fixture in world football returns tonight, and while the latest tie between England and Scotland may be classed as a friendly, the fans of both nations certainly won’t be treating it as such.
Clashes between these sworn adversaries have always been fiery affairs, stemming ultimately from historical conflicts which occurred in centuries past. This may no longer be relevant to 21st Century life, as the two nations have been in a (relatively) happy union for over 300 years, however the sense of animosity still prevails in a sporting context.
The Scottish still view the English with a tinge of jealousy – they are the despised Auld Enemy, ruthless, domineering oppressors who always seem to enjoy the greater amount of success – while from an English perspective, the Scots are the pesky neighbours north of the border who just won’t keep quiet.
To whet your appetite before the latest edition of this iconic fixture on Tuesday, here are five classic England vs Scotland matches which have taken place over the years..
What better place to start than with the first ever meeting between the two sides, which kicked off more than 140 years ago. Although not officially recognised by FIFA as the first match due to the fact that the Scottish team comprised of players based in London, it was nevertheless the first time that both nations had competed against each other in a football match. The English side were considered favourites, boasting army officers and some experienced amateur footballers – including Charles William Alcock, creator of the FA Cup – while the Scots had William Henry Gladstone among their ranks, prominent MP and son of the then-Prime Minister William Gladstone. Played at The Oval in London, England snatched a draw with just a minute of normal time remaining as Alfred Joseph Baker cancelled out Robert Crawford’s 75th minute strike for the Scots. The match is believed to be one of the first times that the rule of changing ends at half-time came into practice.
This match took place during the 1928 British Home Championship, and is regarded as one of the greatest results in Scottish football history. Although the Scots were unfancied going into the game, even by their own media (The Daily Record described the Scottish team as “not a great side”), they managed to stun an English side containing Dixie Dean, with Alex Jackson hitting a hat-trick on the way to a remarkable 5-1 victory. Scotland’s Alex James commented after the game that they “could have had ten”, which reflected their utter dominance over the English, and while Wales went on to win the tournament, the Scottish side who trounced England in London on that rain-sodden Spring day would nevertheless become immortalised as the Wembley Wizards.
Suitable revenge for the English would come 33 years later, as they savoured their heaviest-ever victory over the Scots at a packed Wembley Stadium – the venue of the Tartan Army’s most famous triumph in 1928. Jimmy Greaves emulated the caledonian wizardy of Alex Jackson by netting a hat-trick of his own, while Bobby Robson – who would later go on to enjoy a successful managerial career – was also on the scoresheet. Castigated for his performance in the Scotland goal, Frank Haffey decided to emigrate to Australia after the debacle. He would never represent his country again.
While it may have been another famous triumph on English soil for Scotland, this game will be remembered more for what happened after the final whistle was blown. Goals from Gordon McQueen and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish in the second half had sent the Scots into delirium, and despite a late Mick Channon penalty giving the hosts some hope, Ally MacLeod’s side clung on to victory. Joyously flooding onto the pitch to celebrate, the Tartan Army proceeded to wreak havoc. The pitch was torn up, the goalposts were brought down, and the footage of Scotland fans climbing onto the crossbar of one of the goals, consequently causing it to break, aptly symbolised the demise of English football in the late 1970s. The damaging defeat played a large factor in Don Revie’s exit as England manager, as the Three Lions failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup.
The rival nations had met in Euro 96 as Paul Gascoigne inspired the tournament hosts to victory in a group stage fixture, and three years later they were paired together again in the qualifying play-off round for the 2000 edition of the competition. Two goals from Paul Scholes secured a crucial away victory for the superior English at Hampden Park – with crowd trouble inevitably flaring up in Glasgow city centre in the aftermath of the game – and although Scotland won the second leg at Wembley 1-0 four days later, the aggregate scoreline of 2-1 resulted in qualification for England at Scotland’s expense. The Scots have not come as close to qualifying for a major tournament since this traumatic defeat at the hands of the Auld Enemy at the end of the last century.
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