Season 7 - Scotland PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark W   
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 23:33

Scotland v England – International Friendly

 

Celtic Park – Glasgow, Scotland

 

Tuesday 18 November 2014

 

Scoreboard badges

When England played a two legged play-off against Scotland in 1999 I had only been to a couple of international matches. Those two games, however marked the point at which I feel I started to really understand what international football is all about. I watched those games in the pub but swore that the next time the sides met I would be there. I remember speaking to someone the following week who had been to both Hampden and Wembley for the games and I was in awe.

 

It’s unbelievable that having stuck to that promise to myself, 15 years on this was my first visit to see us take on the auld enemy in Glasgow. It was even more amazing that they had arranged this game for a time when Hampden Park was unavailable meaning that the match would be played at Celtic Park . This gave an added dimension to the game as I think it is fair to say that the overall view of Celtic is not exactly a positive one amongst the England faithful.

 

The first clash between the two home nations a year ago at Wembley had whetted the appetite for this game and I don’t mind admitting that it was a long time since I had approached a friendly, or qualifier for that matter, with such anticipation.

 

As might be expected, the build up to the game was dominated by press speculation that the streets of Glasgow would be drenched in blood on the day of the game. Everyone knows that England fans are all hooligans as the last twenty years hasn’t happened. Mix this with the post referendum nationalism that had swept the Jocks and it wasn’t going to be safe for anyone to set foot outside Glasgow Central Station.

 

Station

 

For those making the trip, however, the bigger news story was the FA’s dictat that everyone had to pick up their tickets once they arrived in Scotland’s second city. The expectation was that this would create chaos. 5,000 fans picking up tickets couldn’t possibly run smoothly.

 

The home game against Slovenia on the Saturday had seen England maintain their 100% start to the qualifying campaign. It wasn’t exactly inspiring stuff though. The atmosphere was non-existent and the performance was more professional than enthralling. Scotland’s victory over Ireland on the other hand had the media gushing. A real blood and thunder encounter by all accounts. Scotland were the real deal now and England were there for the taking.

 

Neil, Tom and myself were on a train out of Preston just before eleven which would get us into Glasgow for one o’clock. Even a cancelled train from Manchester to Preston couldn’t put a dampener on it. I was anticipating packed train but until we reached Carlisle it was actually very quiet. I think most had opted for an earlier start particularly with the expected chaos of the ticket collection.

 

Cancelled

 

The collection was just as mad as expected. Actually, that’s not strictly true as we were the only people there. I don’t know quite how this worked but work it did. I still don’t agree with the decision to insist on collection for everyone as they know that there a large number of fans they can identify as travelling 90% of the time and they knew these fans were not going to be selling tickets on. At the same time, however, I do accept that the FA are responsible for ensuring that there is as little trouble as possible at games and so if they had intelligence that tickets were going to be sold on they had to do something.

 

The afternoon was spent seeing what Glasgow had to offer by way of bars and pubs (and the odd iconic view of the city).

 

Cone

 

I think my favourite was probably the Horse Shoe in the city centre. The pub was absolutely rammed even early in the afternoon. There was probably a 50/50 mix of English and Jocks. If you’d believed the hype, you would have thought it was going to kick off at any minute but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was all very friendly with a chant from the English being followed by something from our hosts. A rendition of the National Anthem was met with jeers and the chorus of Flower of Scotland got a similar reaction. Perhaps these men in skirts weren’t quite as offended by our presence as we’d been led to believe.

 

Eventually we opted for somewhere a bit quieter and we made ourselves comfortable at Committee Room No.9. I even kept up the tradition of following England away in here. If we were anywhere else in the world we would always do the same thing in a bar. We would order a pint of the local brew. There were some decent lagers on tap but sure enough I got myself a pint of Tennants. It’s not quite like being in most other places in the world though and so I was soon back on the Estrella.

 

Beer

 

We stayed in this pub for much of the rest of the afternoon with various friends joining us at certain points. I think Peter was feeling a bit outnumbered as we had more Oldham fans in there than you sometimes get at Boundary Park at one point. We made our presence known.

 

Flag in pub

 

We opted to head towards the ground early and so jumped in a cab an hour or so before kick-off. Half way there, however, we passed some lads we knew and decided to walk the rest of the way. Then we saw a bar!

 

It amazes me how the two halves of Glasgow live side by side. Seeing a bar a five minute walk from Celtic Park flying a Union Jack and the Red Hand of Ulster just wasn’t what I was expecting. When we went in you were left in even less doubt as to what the political leanings of the landlord were. It was absolutely rocking in there and the English were being made so welcome.

 

GSTQ

 

The away end of Parkhead was not full but by God was it bouncing. Much has been made of the songs that were being sung from the England end and I don’t really want to get into any political discussions. What I would say, though, is that it is very difficult to get a great atmosphere without there being a bit of ‘edge’. The decision was taken to play the game at Celtic Park and this was always going to lead to some expression of anti-Irish opinion. Like it or hate it the volume and passion was amazing. The difference from the atmosphere on the Saturday couldn’t have been more stark.

 

And there was even somewhere for the flag

 

Flag in ground

 

The rendition of God Save The Queen was ear-splitting, both from the England fans belting out the anthem and the Sweaties trying to drown us out.

 

Anthems

 

For once the atmosphere was matched by the performance on the pitch. In the opening minutes Scotland looked slightly the better side but soon we were into our rhythm. And it was no surprise when we took the lead just after the half hour mark. The way the goal came was more of a shock though. I don’t think many people realised that Oxlade-Chamberlain had a deft little header in his armoury.

 

Whereas you might have expected that the volume amongst the England faithful would have gone through the roof at this point, it hardly changed. Things were already that lively that it just couldn’t get any better. As the ball hit the back of the net, the songs simply continued. The only difference was that the responses from the other end disappeared.

 

The second goal straight after half time did take things to another level. The challenge that led to the England free kick was borderline assault. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone get their legs taken from them and clothes-lined at the same time. Once the ball was swung in, Scotland half cleared but a fantastic header from Wayne Rooney surely put the game out of the home side’s reach. Rooney has taken a lot of stick over the last year or two but at the moment he is performing excellently for his country (maybe for his club too but I’m never going to admit to that). Maybe he can still develop into the player that he always had the potential to be.

 

It was out of the blue when Scotland pulled a goal back but I was convinced that we would go on to throw the game away with almost ten minutes to go. The Tartan Army clearly felt the same as the volume in the rest of the stadium stepped up and some idiot ran onto the pitch in front of us.

 

There is nothing better than scoring a goal to kill the game just after your rivals have started to believe again. Things went mental in that away end. The “Cheer Up Gordon Strachan” chants had been evident throughout the second period but now everyone was joining in. The other three stands had started to empty. Were these really the same people who believed they were going to get something out of the game just a few seconds ago?

 

Nobody was bothered when we were held back for half an hour at the end as it simply meant that the party could continue.

 

Score

 

What people were slightly more concerned about was the bizarre arrangements for leaving the stadium. Obviously the Scottish police wanted to keep supporters apart but I don’t understand the logic of leading us out of the away end in the opposite direction to where 99% of the fans wanted to go. We ended up doing a full lap of the stadium and then ending up where we began. Only at this point could we start making our way back to central Glasgow. It was quite a long walk but enjoyable in a convoy of 5,000 England fans. There wasn’t a local to be seen.

 

Once back in town, there were very few pubs open. Even those advertising that they open until 3am every day had decided that tonight would be an exception. Understandable I guess but there was still no suggestion that there was any trouble brewing.

 

After a wander round looking for somewhere we opted for the bar next to our hotel. It looked a bit ropey from the outside but was a great pub with a mix of fans in there.

 

Hotel

 

It was amusing speaking to some of the locals and finding out what they thought of the England side. Without doubt my favourite comment was as follows: “All we ever hear in the media and read in the press is that England are shit. We were really looking forward to tonight and then you turn up and are really f**king good. It’s just not fair”. You know what, that probably sums it up.

 

The night was finished in the hotel bar which was showing the game on repeat. This probably led to a beer or two more than we really needed after a full day on the ale, especially with an early train back to civilization the following morning. It almost certainly didn’t help to cheer up Gordon Strachan either.


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 11:11