Top Tenner: England vs. Scotland
In preparation for Tuesday's friendly at Celtic Park, Nick Miller counts down the top 10 matches between Scotland and England:
10. Scotland 0-0 England, 1872
We shall start at the beginning. Actually, whether you go by official or unofficial history determines whether or not you think this was indeed the beginning. The very first game between two sides calling themselves "England" and "Scotland" came in 1870, after the secretary of the nascent English FA, C.W. Alcock, issued a challenge to all "Scotchmen" to sign up for a team to represent their country. Five games were organised at the Oval in London over the following two years, but none of them are recognised by FIFA, so the very first official international between England and Scotland (of course making it the very first official international ever) took place on St Andrew's Day, Nov. 30, 1872. The Scottish team was made up entirely of players from Queen's Park, the strongest team of the day, while Alcock selected the English team from a variety of teams, including FA Cup holders Wanderers, three players from Oxford University, one from Cambridge and one from the world's oldest league team, Notts County. Alas, international football didn't start with what you might call a bang, a rain-soaked heavy pitch at the Hamilton Crescent cricket ground contributing to a 0-0 draw.
9. Scotland 3-0 England, 1876
As you might expect, given that organised football was very much in its infancy in the early days of England-Scotland internationals, these games saw a good few innovations, elements of the game we now consider fundamental, introduced for the first time. This one, football's fifth official international fixture, saw quite a few, with a wooden beam placed atop the two goalposts where a strip of tape had been used before, as well as this being the first game ever played before a grandstand. However, perhaps most importantly, this was the first international to see an interval at the halfway point of the game, and for the teams to change ends -- this was, quite literally, a game of two halves, for the very first time. The game itself wasn't especially notable, the Scots recording a relatively routine 3-0 victory, but it is worth remembering as one that established a basic tenet of the sport.
8. Scotland 0-1 England, 1950
Qualifying for the World Cup in the tournament's early days was a rum old business. Countries would routinely turn down invitations for reasons both spurious and serious, while on other occasions rules seemed to be made up on the hoof, in the days before a proper structured qualification process. In 1950, it was decreed by FIFA that the Home Championships, contested by England, Scotland, Wales and an "all-Ireland" team (the last time football would be played under that banner) would serve as qualifiers for the World Cup, and going into the final game at Hampden Park, the English and the Scots were in the top two places, thus guaranteed places in Brazil. However, the Scottish FA said that they would take up their place only if they finished first, putting a fair amount of pressure on this one game. Alas for the Scots, it seemed that pressure proved too much for them, as a goal by Chelsea's Roy Bentley was enough to seal a 1-0 victory and top spot for England.
7. England 2-1 Scotland (on aggregate), 1999
Qualifying for a major international tournament is supposed to be a joyous thing, an achievement to be greeted with great celebration, particularly if you get there via the crippling tension of a playoff. However, England limped almost apologetically to Euro 2000 after beating Scotland 2-1 over two legs, a brace from Paul Scholes earning them a 2-0 victory in the first game, with Don Hutchison scoring the only goal in the return as Scotland at least gave their rivals a bloody nose. "We would be the first to admit we did not play well," said England boss Kevin Keegan after the game. "We could not get going. There are lots of excuses to make, maybe it was a bit too much for the players psychologically, having a 2-0 lead." England didn't have a single shot on target in a dismal performance, and that difficult psychology perhaps spilled over into the tournament itself, where despite beating Germany 1-0, England crashed out in the first round.
6. Scotland 0-2 England, 1989
By 1984, the Home Championship had been discontinued, attendances at all but England-Scotland games dwindling to the point of apathy, but it seemed there was still an appetite for clashes between the Auld enemies. Thus, the wheeze of the Rous Cup was dreamt up, initially just an annual, single game between the two countries, with a South American team later invited to join the festivities; Brazil, asked to play in 1987, rather unsportingly won the thing. The games passed without significant incident until 1989, when before, during and after the clash at Hampden Park, violence was reported across Glasgow and the football authorities, already nervous and sensitive after British teams were banned from European competition following the Heysel disaster, decided the fixture was more trouble than it was worth. England, who were unable to select players from Arsenal or Liverpool because of the continuing domestic season, which was extended following the Hillsborough disaster, won 2-0 with goals from Steve Bull and Chris Waddle, and the sides wouldn't meet for another seven years.
5. England 9-3 Scotland, 1961
Some performances are so bad that a player might want to sink into the ground, or drink the memory of his problems away, or go to a faraway land, never to come back. For Frank Haffey, the man between the sticks for this most heinous of pummellings for Scotland at Wembley, the latter was the case. While the big Celtic goalkeeper did not emigrate to Australia, where he worked as a singer, comedian and actor, just because of the shame that these goals whistling past his ears brought, it was clear the 9-3 defeat had a big impact on him. Years later, Haffey said of the aftermath: "The British press had a field day with me ...They photographed me under Big Ben with the time on three past nine. Arriving back in Glasgow on the train, they got one of me with the big number for Platform 9 above my head, and then walking past a doorway with the number 93."
It perhaps wasn't a massive surprise that the goal tally was so high, since Haffey was a late call-up and Scotland's fourth-choice keeper, although the shambles wasn't all down to him ("He might have made a couple of mistakes but not half as many as the defenders around him," Jimmy Armfield, playing for England that day, said of Haffey), as a brilliant English forward line filled their boots. Bobby Robson opened the scoring in the ninth minute, and a brace by Jimmy Greaves made it 3-0 at the break. Scotland got back into the game with a couple of quick goals by Dave Mackay and Davie Wilson shortly after the break, but were blown away by six second-half goals, one by Bryan Douglas, a brace each for Johnny Haynes and Bobby Smith, before Greaves finished off his hat trick and the rout.
4. England 1-5 Scotland, 1928
The 1928 Home Championships didn't start particularly well for England and Scotland, both teams failing to win their opening two games (mustering just a single draw between them) before this encounter at Wembley. Still, the English were strong favourites for this game, their side featuring four of the brilliant Huddersfield team that had just won three league titles in a row, as well as the great Dixie Dean. The Scots had a couple of decent players too, notably Alex Jackson, the mercurial winger who also played for Huddersfield, and Alex James, the Preston inside-forward who would move to Arsenal a year after this encounter, going on to become one of the club's greatest-ever players and helping them to four league titles in five years.
And it was those two men who inspired the Scots to this brilliant victory, Jackson opening the scoring after just three minutes and James doubling the lead just before halftime. The Scots really cut loose after the break, Jackson and James taking it in turns to breach the English defence, the latter completing his hat trick with the home side able to muster only a late consolation free kick from Bob Kelly. "We could have had 10," said James after the game, and the legend of the "Wembley Wizards" was born, even though those players would never appear together again.
3. England 1-2 Scotland, 1977
After the 1967 game in which Scotland were dubbed the "unofficial world champions" (more on that shortly), despite their fans invading the pitch on the final whistle and scooping up liberal chunks of the Wembley turf as souvenirs, something approaching order was retained. Not a decade later though, as the travelling Scottish army (featuring one Rod Stewart) cut loose after the final whistle, goals from Gordon McQueen and Kenny Dalglish securing a 2-1 victory for Ally McLeod's side, potentially boosting the manager's chutzpah ahead of the 1978 World Cup, which he predicted Scotland would win. When the game was over, the Wembley turf became a sea of yellow Royal Standard of Scotland flags and flailing Scottish limbs, as the travelling supporters celebrated their victory with some vigour, snapping the Wembley crossbar in two and generally making quite a mess of the place. "You're really divided between appreciating the delight of the Scottish fans, but not wanting to see the ground pulled apart like this," solemnly intoned John Motson on the BBC. "So what that Scottish fans dug up some turf?" was the view of Mick Channon, England's goal scorer that day. "They were just having fun. People should get a life. They want to take the fun out of everything."
2. England 2-0 Scotland, Euro 96
Stuart Pearce was one of the last chest-thumping, viscerally patriotic footballers to play for England, one of the last for whom international football was the absolute pinnacle, before the Champions League started to take over. It's therefore not a particular surprise to learn that he refused to look the Scottish players in the eye before the group encounter between the two sides at Euro 96. "You've got no friends when you play against a team like that," said the man who used to have a full-sized flagpole, complete with St George's Cross, in his front garden. Pearce's moment would come later in the tournament, for this one was all about Paul Gascoigne and his brilliant flick over Colin Hendry and volley past Andy Goram, the one real moment of standout brilliance from him in that tournament. The goal came a mere minute after David Seaman saved Gary McAllister's penalty, after the ball had shifted on the spot just before it was struck, a movement that cutlery-warper Uri Geller tried to convince the world that he had caused from a helicopter hovering above Wembley. "There's no doubt at all in my mind that if I had scored the penalty, we would have won the game. We were on top," said McAllister. Blame Geller, Gary, not yourself.
1. England 2-3 Scotland, 1967
Despite having perhaps the greatest selection of players in their history, including four of Celtic's "Lisbon Lions" as well as Jim Baxter, Billy Bremner and Denis Law, Scotland were very much underdogs as they travelled to the home of the world champions. "We'd just decided to enjoy ourselves," said Baxter of the way Scotland approached the game. "And it worked. And it was fun, my God it was." England had gone 19 games undefeated before this encounter, and retained the core of the side that had won the World Cup the previous year, but Scotland took an early lead after Law tapped in a rebound. Bobby Lennox made it 2-0 in the second half, before Jack Charlton, curiously playing as an auxiliary centre-forward following an injury earlier in the game, clawed one back. That goal kicked off a frantic final five minutes, as Jim McCalliog padded the Scottish lead, Geoff Hurst hit back again for England before Jim Baxter decided to kill time and gloriously taunt the English players with an impromptu demonstration of keepie-uppie in the middle of the pitch. "I went to the pub," Baxter said years later, when asked how he celebrated such a feat. "For 14 years."