Main photo credit: SteHLiverpool
By Liam Bryce
There’s not a great deal that universally unites Scottish football fans, in fact, our game’s biggest rivalry thrives on divisiveness.
But when it comes to the less-than-esteemed regard in which the Scottish game is held by our neighbours south of the border the nation is largely in disgruntled agreement.
Scottish football lacks the financial muscle of the expertly marketed English Premier League and despite years of high-profile underachieving by the Three Lions, our national side lags well behind in terms of talent and profile.
Stretching back to 1999, the Scots have won just one of the last five meetings between the two nations, with Don Hutchison’s strike at Wembley proving to be nothing more than a consolation as the hosts progressed to the 2000 European Championships by virtue of a 2-0 first leg victory.Embed from Getty Images
Scotland haven’t beaten England since 1999
Since that fixture, the game in both countries has taken significantly different trajectories in terms of finances; England’s top clubs have shot into the upper echelons of football’s rich-list while money problems forced Rangers, one of Scotland’s two biggest sides, to re-build from the ground up.
The markedly different fortunes (literally) in both nations has led to English fans looking down on the Scottish game with an irritating air of superiority.
In reference to the Scottish Premiership, the phrase “tin-pot league” is bandied around with gusto on Twitter, as are claims that grandmothers across England would break the 20 goal barrier with ease, if only clubs this side of the border were brave enough to take a punt on them.
Zzzzzz. Stop reporting on this one team, tinpot, joke of a league. No one outside of Scotland cares.
— Simon (@sibonski) March 31, 2017
For so long it’s been asked if players could turn out for the national side by way of a Scottish granny, but perhaps we’ve gotten it wrong and it’s the grannies themselves we should be asking to lead the line.
Joking aside, Celtic’s historic unbeaten treble has barely registered down south and talk of star man Scott Sinclair receiving an England call was dismissed off-hand in several quarters.
Even Sky Sports, the broadcasting juggernaut that has catalysed the EPL’s journey into the monetary stratosphere, appears to hold Scottish football with some disdain.
From lazy analysis of Premiership matches to ex-Arsenal striker Paul Merson admitting he had “absolutely no clue” when asked to predict the outcome of Kilmarnock vs. Dundee, the coverage epitomises the ignorance many feel the Scottish game is subjected to in England.Embed from Getty Images
Clueless: Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson floundered on live TV attempting to discuss Scottish football
This all may sound like the supposed Scottish chip-on-the-shoulder rearing its head, peering jealously over the fence at its more illustrious counterpart but, a minority aside, fans in this country are nothing if not self-aware, and many have no desire to see their national game enslaved to the TV dollar.
The ‘best league in the world’ trope is mostly used ironically nowadays, but the eye-watering transfer fees commanded by average English footballers betrays a superiority complex which stretches beyond lording it over a less well-off neighbour.
So, as Gordon Strachan’s Scotland prepare to welcome Gareth Southgate’s England to Hampden on Saturday there is an opportunity for the Tartan Army to demonstrate that the gap between the game in both nations is perhaps not quite as cavernous as many would have you believe.
Can Celtic’s ‘invincibles’ transfer their form onto the international scene?
Strachan’s men come into the fixture spearheaded by several members of an all-conquering Celtic side, with the manager admitting it would be “stupid” not to draw on the confidence of those players.
Morale will already have been lifted by the dramatic late victory over Slovenia last time out and there may not be many better opportunities to get one over on the Auld Enemy as they adjust to life under the largely unproven Southgate.
Strachan’s squad is still sorely lacking in some areas and a 3-0 England victory back in November does not point to a positive result for the Scots at the weekend.
Indeed, a win may not be all that significant in the grand scheme as Scotland still trail Slovenia and Slovakia in Group F, but its undeniable that there would be something immensely satisfying about a long-awaited victory over our oldest rivals.
And to do it without the need of someone’s nan up front would make it all the sweeter.