DEFENDER Gary Cahill cannot wait for the renewal of football’s oldest international rivalry.
England and Scotland were first at each other’s throats in 1872 and, other than the war years, played annually until 1989.
Since then, the two countries have met on only three occasions. Paul Gascoigne scored one of the most memorable goals of his entire career against the Scots at Wembley during Euro ’96 and three years later both teams won the away leg of their Euro 2000 play-off, although it was the Three Lions who emerged victorious on aggregate.
Now the pair are preparing to do battle for the 111th occasion when they meet at Wembley next Wednesday, with England having the edge in victories 45-41. For a new generation of players, it will be a unique occasion and something Cahill cannot wait to experience.
Speaking on behalf of England team sponsors Vauxhall at a youth event in Fareham yesterday, the Chelsea defender said: “It is an exciting prospect. It is the sense of the occasion and the atmosphere you look forward to the most.
“It is the local rivalry that gets your mouth watering. Everybody looking forward to the fixture and no doubt the build-up will be big.
“People always say there is no such thing as a friendly. But this definitely won’t be. Both teams will be going at it to get a result.”
Cahill was only nine when Gascoigne lifted the ball over Colin Hendry’s head and drilled it past Andy Goram, a goal that has gone down in English footballing folklore. “I have vague memories of the 1996 game from the highlights I have seen, and especially that goal,” he said. “It has been a long time.”
The most obvious Scottish threat to England’s hopes of glory will be Jordan Rhodes, who managed to put the off-field turmoil at Blackburn behind him to have an outstanding debut campaign at Ewood Park, netting on 28 occasions.
“He has created a stir,” said Cahill. “I have watched a few games he has been involved in.
“He hasn’t played in the top flight yet but that doesn’t mean he is not capable of doing so.
“He has an exciting career ahead of him. He is going to be a threat and someone we will have to look out for.”
Indeed, England meet opponents buoyed by an unexpected victory over Croatia in Zagreb a couple of months ago. And Cahill knows Gordon Strachan’s men will be in no mood to let their momentum grind to a halt.
“They will probably be hard to break down, try and grab a goal on the counter-attack,” he said. “There is pressure on us but you have that all the time with England. You are expected to win. If you do, it is great and it is almost like what should happen. If you lose, you get people saying it is the end of the world.”