Just when you think they can sink no further, England somehow plummet further down the shambolic gauge, with their current plight resembling closer to a soap opera than it does a nation with a yearning ambition to taste success at a major tournament.
The farcical situation surrounding the resignation of Sam Allardyce after one game in charge left the FA facing further embarrassment and the short-term appointment of Gareth Southgate has failed to raise the spirits of England supporters who continue to be greeted with uninspiring performances.
In many ways, their fortuitous draw in Slovenia was reflective of their situation off-the-field – a complete shambles which owed much to their goalkeeper Joe Hart as it did the sizeable slices of luck that came their way.
An ancient and resentful rivalry will be revived on Friday when Scotland travel to Wembley to take on the Auld Enemy – a fixture that has declined over the years since the desertion of their annual match-ups in 1989. The obvious lack of interest in this event has been evident by the domination of the poppies on shirts dispute which has overshadowed the forthcoming encounter.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan is also under immense pressure following his side’s tumultuous display in Slovakia last month which saw them slump to an emphatic 3-0 defeat and leaves them fourth in Group F. However, a famous win in London will see the Tartan Army move level with the Three Lions on seven points.
In preparation for Friday’s clash between the two oldest international teams in the world, we have delved into the archives and compiled a list of the top five matches between the two countries. Let the Battle of Britain commence.
England 2-0 Scotland, 1996
This titanic Euro 96 tussle had been simmering in the melting pot for seven years and it more than lived up to its overwhelming anticipation. It is best remembered for the moment of magic provided by Paul Gascoigne when he memorably flicked the ball over a floundering Colin Hendry and then volleyed it past Andy Goram to kill the game off. The notorious dentist chair’s celebration that followed added further allure to this flash of individual brilliance from the tortured genius.
‘Gazza’s’ goal arrived almost instantly after Gary McAllister’s penalty had been superbly kept out by David Seaman. “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. How history could have been so different.
England 2-3 Scotland, 1967
Without question, Scotland’s finest hour at Wembley came in 1967 when they defeated the reigning World Champions who went into the encounter on a 19-game unbeaten streak. Even though they possessed the finest calibre of players in their history including Denis Law and Billy Bremner, Scotland were heavy underdogs going into the clash with Law stoking the fires further by admitting he had favoured going for a round of golf, rather then watch England’s epic World Cup final over West Germany a year earlier.
It was the Manchester United legend who opened the scoring as Scotland opened up a 3-1 lead before 1966 hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst halved the deficit with five minutes remaining. However, Scotland ran down the clock with Jim Baxter taunting the home side in the centre of the pitch through a spot of keepie-uppy.
“I went to the pub,” Baxter remarked years later, when asked how he celebrated such an achievement. “For 14 years.” Despite the defeat, it was England who would have the last laugh as they qualified for the 1968 European Championship at their arch-rivals expense.
England 9-3 Scotland, 1961
This home international saw a formidable England front line fill their boots with Jimmy Greaves helping himself to a hat-trick and the great Johnny Haynes notching a brace as Walter Winterbottom’s side ran riot at Wembley.
A calamitous display in between the sticks from Celtic’s Frank Haffey set the tone for years of jesting about the standard of Scottish goalkeeping, with the British Press photographing the unfortunate Haffey under Big Ben with the time on three minutes past nine. This humiliation proved to be his final outing for his country and gave birth to the gag: “What’s the time? Nine past Haffey”.
England 1-5 Scotland, 1928
Both countries went into this home international without a win from their opening two matches, but England were simply outclassed by a Scottish side inspired by the devastating attacking duo of Alex Jackson and Alex James – the latter of which helped lead Arsenal to four league titles in five seasons.
The pair were the scorers behind all five Scottish goals as Jackson’s hat-trick and James’s double gave Scotland a resounding victory. To this day, this Scottish team is still referred to as ‘The Wembley Wizards’, although incredibly they would never again be selected as one for an international match.
Scotland 0-1 England, 1950
FIFA declared in 1950 that the Home Championships would be the qualifying process for England, Scotland, Wales and an ‘all-Ireland’ team, with the top two finishers earning their place in Brazil. England and Scotland occupied the top two spots going into the final game at Hampden Park, but the Scottish FA decided to add a further twist to proceedings by affirming that they would only accept their place in the World Cup if they topped the group.
Faced with this heavy burden, Scotland were unable to cope with this superfluous pressure as Roy Bentley’s goal was enough to separate the two teams and seal top spot for his country.