Gordon Strachan has admitted that his enthusiasm for the Scotland v England fixture has been dented in the wake of Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat, but he takes “solace” from another year of improvement.
The Scotland manager saw his side suffer only a second reversal in 11 games. However, the identity of the opponents ensured that the loss was a sore one to take.
Strachan described the feeling as being worse than after the 3-2 defeat by England last August at Wembley, when Scotland played a lot better and had only themselves to blame for the failure to earn a result after poor defending at set-pieces.
Strachan admitted that Tuesday’s performance, after the high of last Friday night’s win over Republic of Ireland in a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier, left him feeling particularly desolate. “It’s left a hole inside me, different to when I was just angry, like after England last year,” he said.
Scotland fell behind to a free header by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, before Wayne Rooney doubled England’s lead just after half-time. The striker then scored his 46th international goal with five minutes remaining, shortly after full-back Andy Robertson had given the hosts hope with his first Scotland goal.
Asked how he felt about the future of the fixture after games in successive years, following a 25-year gap broken only by the Euro 96 clash and the Euro 2000 play-offs in 1999, Strachan was non-committal.
“To be honest it [the defeat] has affected my enthusiasm for football [full stop] at the moment,” he said. “In a couple of days I’ll be fine again.
“We’ll go again and I’ll take in all the good stuff from the year. But at this moment in time, the disappointment of the England game is outweighing everything else. I’m just afraid that’s the way it goes in football.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“It was similar after the defeat to England last year although I was more angry that time. We played a lot better in that game, the game was more even and more of a contest. I didn’t think that on Tuesday night.”
Strachan will look to schedule a friendly in March, prior to the next qualifying game against Gibraltar. The manager was satisfied with another year of improvement after the strides of 2013, his first full year in the role. Scotland have earned seven points from four qualifiers and sit in joint second place in Group D, alongside Germany and Republic of Ireland and behind leaders Poland.
“I’m taking the whole year in now,” said Strachan. “That’s the kind of solace I’m taking. It may be a false solace, I don’t know. But I think it’s been a good 12 months for us as a group.
“Look, it’s hugely disappointing to finish off the year with a performance we believe we can do a lot better than.
“But as I said to the younger lads in the dressing room, if you want to aspire to become better and play on stages like the Champions League, then that’s the pace you need to play at.”
The first match between the sides to take place in Glasgow for 15 years passed off peacefully. A spokesman for Police Scotland said there had been 26 arrests, including seven inside Celtic Park.
The last time England played in Glasgow in 1999 there was widespread mayhem with more than 200 people arrested.
This time, the highly visible police presence throughout the city centre prevented trouble. “The whole day went very well. There were minor incidents throughout the day but very, very few arrests,” a spokesman for Police Scotland said. “We’ve had no major incidents within the city area, and the match passed off very peaceably.”
The only sour note on an otherwise peaceful night came from a section of the England fans who chanted anti-IRA songs during the first half. The songs stopped after FA officials told the England supporters band to stop accompanying the chants at half-time.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS