THE revival of the world’s oldest international football fixture is set to gather pace with the first meeting of Scotland and England in Glasgow for 15 years.
The Scottish FA and their English counterparts are understood to be in serious negotiations to stage a challenge match on 18 November this year. No agreement has yet been reached but both parties are believed to be optimistic the lucrative game will take place.
Hampden is the preferred venue but there remains a serious doubt over whether the National Stadium will have been refitted for football by then following its temporary role hosting the athletics at the Commonwealth Games in July.
Celtic Park is the most likely alternative venue, with its 60,000 capacity sure to be sold out for a visit by England.
The plan follows the successful return of the “Auld Enemy” clash at Wembley last August, a match held to mark the 150th anniversary of the English FA.
Then, a thrilling encounter attracted an attendance of 80,435 and saw England come from behind twice to defeat the Scots 3-2.
But it was the conduct of the 25,000 travelling Scotland fans in London which has persuaded the authorities that the fixture could once more be staged on a fairly regular basis. Metropolitan Police reported no major incidents last August and praised the behaviour of the Tartan Army.
The annual Scotland-England showdown, first staged at Hamilton Crescent cricket ground in Glasgow in 1872, came to an end in 1989.
Persistent crowd trouble, the increasingly prohibitive cost of security arrangements and an expanded competitive international fixture schedule saw it dropped from the calendar.
The old rivals have only met four times in the 25 years since. They were drawn together in the Euro ’96 finals in England, the Scots losing 2-0 at Wembley when Gary McAllister missed the chance to equalise from the penalty spot.
They were then drawn together in the play-offs for a place at Euro 2000. In November 1999, Scotland lost the first leg at Hampden 2-0 to a double from Paul Scholes with crowd disorder again marring the occasion as police made 51 arrests. Scotland won the return fixture at Wembley 1-0 thanks to a
Don Hutchison goal but were eliminated from the tournament on aggregate. That was the last meeting of the teams until last August’s memorable clash, when Scottish goals from James Morrison and Kenny Miller were cancelled out by strikes from Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan and his English counterpart Roy Hodgson both expressed their enthusiasm for a return match afterwards. It now seems certain Strachan and his players will have the opportunity to avenge their defeat and build on the encouraging momentum they have gathered over the past season.
The Scots are unbeaten in the past five matches, with four wins and a draw, and will go into the Euro 2016 qualifiers later this year with genuine optimism that they can qualify for the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1998.
The proposed challenge match against England will come four days after Scotland play host to Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland side on Friday 14 November in their fourth game of a Group D campaign which also sees them face
Germany, Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar.
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
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