The race for Russia resumes this week, with FIFA World Cup qualifying action across Europe, but arguably the most attractive fixture of all will be at Wembley Stadium, as Gareth Southgate’s England team welcome Gordon Strachan’s Scotland in Group F. Ahead of Friday’s renewal of this classic rivalry, the Kitbag.com blog has trawled its way through history to recount some of the most famous England vs Scotland showdowns of the past 144 years.
England vs Scotland holds the unique distinction of being football’s first official international fixture. While representative sides of both nations had locked horns in London at the start of the 1870s, questions about the validity of the contests (almost all of the Scottish team had been London-based) blighted their credibility north of the border. Issuing a challenge for a match where all Scottish players would be eligible, FA secretary Charles Alcock was the instigator of the 1872 friendly, played at Partick’s Hamilton Crescent, rather fittingly on St. Andrew’s Day. This landmark encounter would end in a 0-0 stalemate, with participants including eventual FA President Charles Clegg and future Scottish counterpart Robert Gardner, who played in goal for the home side. The teams would play almost a dozen more friendlies over the era to follow, at a variety of venues, from Sheffield’s Bramall Lane to London’s Oval cricket ground. During this period, Scotland would win the lion’s share of games, including a 7-2 thrashing at Glasgow’s Hampden Park in March 1878.
No place like home
For a full century (sans a temporary hiatus for the First and Second World Wars), the neighbouring nations faced off for the British Home Championship, joining Welsh and Irish counterparts in a four-team, round-robin competition. On three different occasions, these meetings would double in significance, acting as qualifying ties for the 1950 and 54 World Cups and the 1968 European Championships. In 1967, Scotland became the first side to beat reigning World champions England, winning 3-2 at Wembley Stadium. It was arguably their greatest ever success on English soil, coming six years to the day after a 9-3 humbling at the same venue. Into the television era, many will remember the colourful scenes of 1977, as Scottish fans celebrated a 2-1 win by bringing down the Wembley goalposts. Anarchy in the UK, indeed. However, Scotland would only beat England once more before the eventual discontinuation of the tournament in the 1980s, with the last British Home Championship game in 1984 ending with a 1-1 draw that handed the trophy to Northern Ireland, for keeps.
In the absence of the staple British Home Championship, England and Scotland sides would continue to clash on the international stage for the short-lived Rous Cup (named in honour of former FA official and FIFA President, Sir Stanley Rous). In its inaugural year of 1985, Richard Gough’s second-half effort at Hampden Park helped Scotland become the first ever Rous Cup winners, only for England to turn the tables at Wembley the following season. In 1987, the competition evolved to include a third entrant from South America, with Brazil, Colombia and, finally, Chile, all travelling to the British Isles. During this period, the Scots were unable to record a victory over their English counterparts, with England lifting the Rous Cup trophy in both 1988 and 1989, before the competition was ultimately retired at the end of the decade.
2016 marks the 20th anniversary of that giddy summer of Euro 96, with the classic encounter between England and Scotland at Wembley one of the tournament’s most enduring memories. Having stumbled to a draw in their group stage opener with Switzerland, competition hotshot Alan Shearer would make the scoresheet for the second successive Saturday as England seized a second-half lead against the Scots; only for Scotland to be awarded a penalty late on, exactly as the Swiss had been seven days earlier. On this occasion though, England’s David Seaman would save Gary McAllister’s spot kick, and within moments, Paul Gascoigne lifted the ball over Colin Hendry and drilled beyond Andy Goram to score arguably the most famous goal in the fixture’s storied history. England’s 2-0 victory would invigorate their challenge for the Henri Delaunay Trophy, a run that took them within a whisker of the final.
Let’s all meet up in the year 2000
As the UK prepared for the dawn of a new millennium, England and Scotland found their paths intertwined once more, as the two nations vied for a spot at EURO 2000 in the Low Countries. Having failed to see off Sweden and Bulgaria at Wembley, Kevin Keegan’s England squad had laboured to a second-placed finish in their qualifying group, setting up a play-off date with the Scots, who had finished second behind the Czech Republic. In a lively first leg at Hampden that saw Spanish official Manuel Diaz Vega dish out no fewer than ten bookings, Manchester United’s Paul Scholes scored twice in the first half to hand England a crucial 2-0 cushion. Spirited Scotland though would not roll over and went to Wembley fully-intent on turning the tide. In what was the last meeting of the old rivals in the famous old Wembley setting, striker Don Hutchinson scored before the break, putting Scotland within a goal of forcing extra-time. However, England would cling on to their slender aggregate advantage, advancing to the finals in spite of what would prove to be a bittersweet Scottish victory.
Back in February 1973, England had visited Scotland to commemorate the Scottish FA’s centenary, a fixture that the visitors would win by an emphatic five goals to nil. Four decades later, the two nations reconvened at the revamped Wembley Stadium; this time to celebrate 150 years of the English FA. An exciting fixture under the arch, England ran out 3-2 winners, yet the hosts would certainly not enjoy the smoothest of rides. Indeed, it was the visiting Scottish side who had threatened to spoil the FA’s party; James Morrison sidefooting home with only ten minutes on the clock. After Theo Walcott equalised for England, Kenny Miller gave Scotland their second lead of the night, early on in the second half. Nevertheless, Danny Welbeck would restore parity, heading home the game’s fourth goal only four minutes later. The winner was ultimately reserved for the 70th minute, scored by England substitute and debutant Rickie Lambert with his very first touch on the international stage. Today, Lambert ironically plays his club football not in England nor Scotland, but Wales with Cardiff City.
This is the last time
The last meeting of the nations ahead of this November came almost two years ago to the day, as Glasgow’s Celtic Park hosted its first full England vs Scotland senior international since way back in 1904. Roy Hodgson’s England team arrived in high spirits, having beaten the Republic of Ireland in European Championship qualifying days earlier. Their confidence would then continue into this friendly, with Arsenal duo Jack Wilshire and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combining for the opening goal and captain Wayne Rooney delivering a header of his own after the break to double the English XI’s advantage. Scotland gave themselves a glimmer of a fightback in the 83rd minute, when Andrew Robertson’s left-footed effort found its way into the bottom corner. However, the hopes of the hosts would be laid to rest within a matter of moments, as Rooney capitalised on an Adam Lallana assist to sew up the England win. Having strengthen their record against the Scots to 47 victories (and 24 draws) from 112 encounters, what tale will be told when a new chapter is written at Wembley next Friday night? AC
- Team Applause by Lee Smith, Action Images
- Willie Miller and Gary Lineker by Action Images
- Paul Gascoigne by Darren Walsh, Action Images
- David Beckham by Darren Walsh, Action Images
- Scotland Celebrations by Carl Recine, Action Images
- England Celebrations by Carl Recine, Action Images