Mark McGhee: Deluded to say Scotland have edge over England

Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee was full of praise for England caretaker boss Gareth Southgate. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee was full of praise for England caretaker boss Gareth Southgate. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

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Mark McGhee claims it is foolish to expect Scotland to profit from England’s recent travails ahead of next month’s Auld Enemy clash at Wembley.

With two Group F World Cup qualifying games to come against Lithuania and Slovakia, Scotland have much to accomplish before their London appointment. But, while the assistant manager is confident Scotland can head to Wembley on the back of two positive results, he expects England to be in good fettle as well come 11 November.

Gareth Southgate has stepped into the breach after Sam Allardyce left the England manager’s post by mutual consent after just one game, following a newspaper sting.

But McGhee warned that any Scotland fan – or player – thinking things will now be easier at Wembley is “deluding themselves”. He stressed the importance of making sure Scotland can maintain the momentum picked up after the opening win in Malta.

“It will be better going to Wembley with a couple of results in the bag, that’s for sure,” said McGhee.

England host Malta on Saturday and then travel to face Slovenia next week.

“So much can happen between now and then for them [England] and for Gareth,” continued McGhee.

“I have absolutely no fears that Gareth will do a fantastic job with England. Anybody who thinks that Gareth Southgate suddenly being in charge is going to be some sort of advantage [for us] is deluding themselves.

“It will be a better England side than it was in the summer,” he added. “I don’t mean that it will be a better England side than Sam might have produced but it will be a better side than it was in the summer when they were disappointing for everyone.

“I don’t think we can look too far ahead to that game. If we start doing that, we are in danger of getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve got two games to win before that. If we remain totally focused on that, we have an opportunity.”

He described the upheaval in the England coaching set-up as “a bit of a red herring” since he doesn’t expect the remarkable developments to have a significant impact on the pitch.

England, who won their opening match 1-0 against Slovakia, will still be motivated to improve their reputation in the eyes of the public after such a poor showing at Euro 2016. Scotland, too, are aiming to exorcise memories, in their case failure to qualify for the finals. The 5-1 victory over Malta, where Scotland improved after going in at half-time at 1-1, eased the pressure on the management team and players. But McGhee knows what awaits if all three points are not secured on Saturday night against Lithuania.

Scotland, due partly to some fixtures having been staged away from the national stadium because of the Commonwealth Games, have only won one competitive match at Hampden since beating Lithuania at Hampden in 2011. That came against Gibraltar in the last campaign, where Scotland again fell short of qualifying for a major finals – or even a play-off.

McGhee is aware some dissatisfaction exists. “We have got to live with that,” he said. “I don’t think we can do anything about that, except win the Lithuania game. That is a pressure that we have to live with. We know that.

“The important thing is that we want to win the Lithuania game because we want to qualify. We don’t want to win the Lithuania game because we have some sort of fear of losing our jobs. That is important.”

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