Gordon Strachan has seen enough this week to harden his contention that Scotland can claim a famous victory over England in a game he has already described as “must not lose”.
This afternoon’s World Cup qualifier is plied with significance as well as risk, both on and off the pitch. Security at Hampden Park has been ramped up after Police Scotland were persuaded to back down from demanding the clash be postponed amid fears over hooliganism and terrorist attacks.
But Strachan can only influence what is happening on the field. He has promised the Tartan Army they can expect to see Scotland perform in the belief victory is within their grasp.
“There’s a good chance to get that victory or a draw, but we’re going for the victory because when you watch us train, that’s the way we’re going,” said the Scotland manager.
“I genuinely believe we can win the game. Sometimes you get free hits, and it’s like ‘whatever’. But I really do believe. I will be really disappointed if we don’t get anything from tomorrow’s game. Really disappointed.”
While not everyone took comfort from the 3-0 defeat at Wembley in November, Strachan bases much of his optimism on 90 minutes where Scotland were undone by three headers.
“I take stuff from the game in England, where we would all agree there was nothing happening [for England in the early stages],” he said. “We were OK and comfortable and doing a lot of things we had worked on. We got a couple of chances. We could have been in the lead, big Grant [Hanley] went up for a header and if he had been playing regularly that was in the back of the net.
“[Gary] Cahill had one from there and it went looping in. That’s how close we were. I take that, and I take [what I’ve seen in] training,” he added. “All that adds up to feeling good.”
Strachan dismissed England centre forward Harry Kane’s comments about aiming to score a hat-trick at Hampden today and said his words were taken out of context. The Spurs striker, pictured, has struggled to replicate his club form on the international stage.
“I think it was the way the question was put to him, about scoring goals,” said Strachan. “He hasn’t scored as many as he would have liked.
“He might, if that happens at the weekend, bring his average up. But he never said he was going to score three or four goals. That’s a different thing altogether.
“I’ve watched him over the last four years and he’s too respectful to say things like that. That’s why we like him as a bloke, the striker he is. He’s got that respect from his team-mates and people playing against him, because he respects you.”
Strachan would not be drawn on who will lead the line for Scotland this afternoon. However, he did describe Chris Martin, who stepped from the bench to score the late winner against Slovenia in March to keep Scotland in the hunt for second place, as “raring to go”.