Scotland 2 L Griffiths (87, 90)
England 2 A Oxlade-Chamberlain (70),H Kane (90+3) World Cup Euro Qualifier - Group F
5:00pm Saturday 10th June Hampden Park (Attendance: 48,520)
First played in 1872, the latest instalment of the the oldest football fixture in the world returned to Glasgow on a bright summer Saturday afternoon. When the England team walked out looking as though they couldn’t be arsed, fears rose that the players didn’t quite understand the historic significance of the rivalry between the Auld Enemies. But then, why would they? After all, most of those on the pitch wouldn’t have done History A-Level. Besides, their weekly salaries are way beyond the total life earnings of 48,519 of those in the stands, so it’s below the players pay grade to understand the general ill-feeling between the average Oiks of the two nations. Nevertheless, those of us unfortunate to witness, firsthand, the occasional outbreak of football during the horrendous violence at the Battle of Wembley in 1989, the air of lethargy was hard to stomach - this was a game between the fiercest of rivals and even though the somewhat limited talents of both teams might not have been a recipe for the greatest of spectacles, the least they could do was open the game with a few two-footed lunges. Having said that, recently, we had been getting mixed messages coming out of Scotland as a result of the slew of referenda forced upon the public by the Narcissistic Political Classes both North and South of Hadrian’s Wall. I mean, if your average Gorbals resident wasn’t going to take the opportunity to tell the Tory Old Etonian Posh Boys to: “Awa’ an bile yer heid,” then Scotland must like the English after all, right? Thankfully, reality was restored not long after when Edinburgh decided they like Belgium much more than London after all.
Unfortunately, fears that the players had started their summer holidays a week or so before the game were realised during an extremely dull first half. Perhaps those who witnessed Harry Kane’s speculative lob from 400 yards would disagree, but here’s what happened: “ “.
Despite Jake Livermore’s woefully wayward shot taking a lucky deflection and smashing off the post within the first few minutes of the second half, the game continued in a similarly lethargic vein for much of the second half. That is until the Scottish Keeper decided to liven things up by jumping out of the way of an Oxlade-Chamberlain shot that shocked everyone by actually being on target. Afterwards, normality was restored, and the game reached the more familiar frantic pace that typifies many Scotland England encounters. Suddenly, you found yourself watching with the same sort of morbid fascination as witnessing a car crash at Silverstone - who was going to upend who first? When Gary Cahill duly obliged in the 87th minute, the English amongst us couldn’t help shouting at the Chelski Centre-Half: “Where were you when Bale scored?” This free-kick was just as far out as the Welshman’s effort (that should never have gone in) during the Euros, but a year on and the Keeper was instilling even more panic amongst the English ranks. Hart used to play for Citeh, who’s most famous supporters most famous song was: “Wonderwall.” Unfortunately, the irony of that was not lost on the English defensive wall who failed to do anything wondrous when Griffith’s strike looped over their heads and sailed into the huge gap left by the goalie who had clearly played a game of truth or dare beforehand (in the belief that no Scot possessed the ability to shoot on target). When, two minutes later, the English gave away another free-kick in the exact same position, the English support was left wondering whether today was gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you? Surely, by now, you should’ve somehow, realised what you gotta do? Indeed, when Griffith’s second free-kick flew past the despairing stumble of Hart, the goal had an air of inevitability about it. The Scots were 2-1 up and the majority of Hampden were on the brink of their second victory over the English, after the 1314 win at the Battle of Bannockburn. It was final confirmation of a fact we are all acutely aware, that, basically, the English national football team are shit. Indeed, I couldn’t help thinking that I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do, about you now.
The rabid celebrations of the Scottish Clan in the stands was brought crashing back down to earth with a resounding thud when their Keeper failed to come and claim a speculative ball that landed on Kane’s right boot, two yards out from goal. 2-2, thanks largely, to the ineptitude of Gordon and Hart. So the game ended in a draw, or, to put it another way, they might as well have not bothered. Which was somewhat fitting, given that for about 70 minutes or so, most of the players actually didn’t (bother). Personally, despite the late drama, I couldn’t help thinking that I should have gone to the beach, instead.