Mark McGhee backing Scots’ Celtic connection to beat England

Mark McGhee beat England in 1984 shortly after winning the Scottish Cup and is hoping Scotland's Celtic players can do the same.
Mark McGhee beat England in 1984 shortly after winning the Scottish Cup and is hoping Scotland's Celtic players can do the same.
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Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee hopes a Hampden feelgood factor among his Celtic contingent will prove 
an inspiration when England visit the national stadium on Saturday.

Six members of Gordon 
Strachan’s squad collected William Hill Scottish Cup winners’ medals at Hampden two weeks before the World Cup qualifier after completing a 47-match domestic season unbeaten.

All of them – Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths – started in Scotland’s 1-0 victory over Slovenia in March.

McGhee knows how a cup final buzz can carry over into an Auld Enemy clash – he netted in a 1-1 draw with England in the final Home International meeting in 1984, just seven days after scoring a Hampden winner for Aberdeen against Celtic.

So he feels the confidence of the Celtic players can lift the Scots. “I think that’s important,” said McGhee. “That’s why we played the six lads: they brought a confidence and an understanding between each other which added something to the team.

“I scored the goal in the cup final and a week later I scored against England so hopefully that’s an omen.

“I definitely went into that match confident and I’m sure they will too.

“Last time out we saw their energy and their enthusiasm and the confidence obviously, but there was another advantage too, in that you feel as if the players are connected. They have an understanding of each other’s game, whether it’s the midfield players linking with Griffiths up front for example.

“That’s an attribute that is hard to bring to a team when you have a week to work with them.”

Celtic came through one of their toughest tests of the 
season in the cup final to beat Aberdeen 2-1 after falling behind early on.

“It was a different sort of game for Celtic,” the former Motherwell manager said. “They had to dig in and roll up their sleeves because of the way Aberdeen played. The first half in particular I thought Stuart Armstrong was brilliant. He was the one that kept them going and tried to get their game up a gear.”

Tierney had an especially 
difficult day, going off midway through the first half after 
having teeth dislodged by the arm of Dons striker Jayden Stockley, but he is likely to wear a protective gum shield in order to face England.

“He is looking absolutely A-okay, which is great news for us,” McGhee said. “He is a boy who has broken into the team and could go on and have a lot of caps. We want as many of the boys available as possible so it’s good he will be able to play, especially after his performance moving from left-back to right-back against Slovenia.

“I was doing a little bit for the radio at the cup final for the BBC and one of the things I said was that he had to be injured when he stayed down that long.

“He takes his lead from Broony [Brown]. He comes down to the training ground 
in all weathers, and you can have some cold days at Mar Hall, and he’s always wearing short-sleeved T-shirts. If it’s good enough for Broony, it’s good enough for Kieran. He is a hardy boy.”

The squad which meets up this morning will be 24-strong, which means one player will miss out on getting stripped.

“We said that we could make it 23 but Gordon had a discussion with a couple of players and they wanted to be part of the squad regardless of whether­ they got on the bench,” McGhee said.

“That’s great to have that willingness to meet up with the squad when they could have been away to the exotic places they go to on holiday these days, which we never went to. I think I went to Millport after the game in ’84 but they are all off to Dubai and the likes now.”

l Mark McGhee was speaking at the McDonald’s & Scottish FA Community Football Day in Strathaven, encouraging youngsters to play football at a grassroots 
level and celebrating Quality
Mark clubs in the area. 
For more information visit
www.mcdonalds.co.uk/betterplay