Scotland couldn’t contain Wayne Rooney at Celtic Park and when we finally got him behind a metal barrier for his reflections on Tuesday’s match, the English captain was clearly so buoyed by his two-goal performance that he felt able to suggest his team had shown the greater desire.
But another of England’s diminutive, quick and clever stars on the night, Jack Wilshere, had some consoling words for Scotland after the 3-1 defeat when he predicted Gordon Strachan’s team would qualify for the finals of Euro 2016.
“We played with a lot of desire,” said Rooney. “We obviously know the Scots team play with passion and desire but there was no denying that we played with as much if not more than them. We’re a proud team who work hard for the strip and we really wanted to win this one.”
The Manchester United striker has performed in World Cups and Champions League finals but rated his first international in Scotland as exciting as anything he’s experienced on a football field. “The atmosphere was right up there, I really enjoyed it. England vs Scotland is a great fixture to have for the countries.” He liked the idea of it being staged annually again. “You saw here how much the fans enjoyed it and last year’s game at Wembley was great as well. I’m sure both FAs will be looking into this.”
But, compliments over, Rooney went back to being his bullish self. “We expected to win the game,” he said. “We know we’re the better team. We knew we had to work hard to get the victory, though, and we did that. In the end I think our quality showed.”
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A friendly win over Scotland on a Tuesday night in November might seem small, warm beer for this England side in 2014, especially after their worst-ever showing at a World Cup. But the captain wasn’t about to disregard it. “This was a great win and we should be proud of it,” he said. “Since the World Cup we’ve been fantastic and this makes it six wins in a row. Before the World Cup I think we were doing well, too, but obviously Brazil was a bad experience for us. All we can do is carry on the progression. The young have stepped up and they’ve been brilliant. Those who were new to Scotland games did fantastically well. I’m sure we’re going to get better.” Finally he was asked about his tumbling goal celebration. “That was for my son as he’s been doing it quite a lot. It was a cartwheel, not a back-flip. I don’t have a backflip in me!”
Wilshere was just as unflappable as he prepared to head back over the border, leaving behind a stadium that had long since lost its thunder. The Arsenal playmaker had expected an intimidating atmosphere. He’d anticipated tough tackling. Indeed the only thing which seemed to perturb him was the knowledge he was going to have to face Rooney at the Emirates on Saturday. “He’s really sharp right now,” said Wilshere. “He’s got a few goals in this international break and he’s going to be a problem for us in that No 10 role. We’ll have to deal with that.”
Of the Celtic Park joust he complimented the team he’d just helped defeat. “I do think Scotland have the quality to get to the European Championships,” he said. “They have a lot of ability in the team, guys who play at a high level every week, and a lof of good youngsters coming through. I’d be happy to see them qualify, of course I would. There’s a rivalry between us but you want to see all the home nations doing well. Would I fancy us meeting Scotland at the Euros? Yeah of course.”
It was put to Wilshere – by an English journalist – that the game had been like an FA Cup tie where one clearly superior team merely have to ensure they match the opposition’s commitment to guarantee victory. “I wouldn’t disrespect Scotland,” he said. “They have players in the Premier League, they have quality. We knew we might have the better players but their passion and desire had to be matched. We had to get stuck in.”
The same scribe asked Wilshere if he minded God Save the Queen being booed by the Scots fans, ignoring the fact that the most offensive and sustained chants of the night had come from the English contingent. “We could hear ourselves sing the anthem and that was all that mattered,” he said. “It does lift you, though, having to sing it through that kind of noise. It gives you goosebumps. But we knew it was going to happen. The atmosphere was great. It was massive.”
Some of the tackling had been massive, too, but Wilshere added: “We expected that with the players out there. Myself, I like a tackle. [Scott] Brown likes a tackle, same with [Charlie] Mulgrew and [Darren] Fletcher when he came on. We knew it was going to be a big part of the game, a contest we had to win.”
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