Why England v Scotland is huge for Gareth Southgate

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 11 November 2016, 12:58

Gareth Southgate must realise that England v Scotland is a big game for him too as our national team slips out of sight on the international scene, argues columnist Andy Dillon (@andydillon70).

LET’S HOPE Gareth Southgate makes the most of the occasion facing Scotland at Wembley.

A full house, a pumped up atmosphere, booing national anthems and intense rivalry.

It’s the fantasy image of international football. What players and managers dream about when they take on the job.

Most people in England will be either turning up beneath the Wembley Arch or tuning in at home to witness a ritual whipping of our next door neighbours.

After all, just one defeat to them in 21 years, and nine games, points to another routine if raucous triumph before 90,000 fans.

For every England supporter it will be a good thing to beat Scotland but sadly it is all we have to cling to now and coach Southgate needs to understand this.

Seeing off the Tartan Army used to be seen as a stepping stone to greater things but there is no doubt that Scotland are fast becoming our major rivals again.

Friday June 7, 2002 is the last time England could celebrate a victory against one of the genuinely big nations at a major tournament.

David Beckham’s penalty goal against Argentina immediately triggered the traditional English delusion that the World Cup was ours - hand it over now and let’s save everyone else a lot of sweat and tears.

Of course it didn’t work out like that when Brazil put us back in our place in the last eight - that place being on a plane home after a 2-1 defeat in which we had taken the lead.

Southgate, like the rest of us, quietly acknowledges that things are even worse for England now with less players to pick his team from and a domestic league dominated by foreign owners, managers and players.

That last-eight match against Brazil now looks like a high point in retrospect to more recent tournaments.

Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Paul Scholes and Michael Owen are all long retired and the national squad is weaker than ever - if you don’t believe me just look up World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016 on Wikipedia.

Southgate will move on from Scotland and look forward to facing Spain at Wembley on Tuesday in a friendly.

England’s fading place in the world order could not be better summed up in these two fixtures.

The Spanish are in a state of flux but this comes after winning three major tournaments in a row, while we still look back on 1966 and a famous win over then West Germany with sepia eyes.

Southgate should forget our historic beliefs that Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina are in our sights, or even in our class.

He is coming from a long way back and many feel there is no way back for England now that foreign imports dominate the landscape of our national sport.

England versus Scotland may now become the biggest game in our international football calendar because there’s precious little else to hope for.

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