Gordon Strachan warmed by glow of fans’ joy

Gordon Strachan couldn’t share the excitement of those who were quick to tell him how much they enjoyed the England v Scotland game at Wembley last summer – because he was so ­disheartened by the defeat.

Strachan soaked up the atmosphere in Glasgow after the Republic of Ireland match. Picture: SNS
Strachan soaked up the atmosphere in Glasgow after the Republic of Ireland match. Picture: SNS

The Scotland manager had a better experience on Saturday evening when he attended a concert by James, the band led by his great friend Tim Booth.

Strachan was impressed that match winner Shaun Maloney was namechecked by support band Starsailor as well as James on the night, as Glasgow still crackled with delight at the 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland 24 hours earlier.

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Strachan says he sensed the positive “feedback” from the fans, who were still on a high ­following the victory.

Strachan soaked up the atmosphere in Glasgow after the Republic of Ireland match. Picture: SNS

“Maloney’s goal was mentioned by both bands that were on,” said Strachan. “You got a feel from people how much they ­enjoyed the match. That’s the only place I can get a feel for it – when I meet people and they tell me they enjoyed the ­occasion. Not just the result, but the occasion. It was fantastic.”

There was a similar reaction to Scotland’s adventurous ­performance against England last year, in the first game ­between the sides since 1999.

However, the fact that his side lost 3-2 meant Strachan found it harder to be quite so upbeat, ­despite the praise that went a long way to ensuring the match was not a one-off experiment.

“I did get good feedback last year at Wembley,” he said. “I couldn’t take it in because we had just been beaten. Everybody was telling me it was a great game, a great occasion, and I was looking at them like they were daft.

“I cannot disguise it well when I’m upset. I tried my best to be nice to people but we got beat.”

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Although Strachan was left disappointed, there were many positives taken from that ­encounter.

Indeed, the success of that evening, when more than 80,000 watched a game that was far more competitive than some south of the Border feared, saw the enthusiasm build for a ­return Scottish leg.

Strachan accepted that the sense of it being the only fixture worth bothering about is so not apparent now. Indeed, how can it be when this is only the ­second meeting between the teams since the Euro 2000 play-off in November 1999?

There is not even a Rous Cup on offer these days, as there was in the 1980s, after the Home ­International Championship was abolished. However, the hosts are looking for a first home victory against the Auld Enemy since 1985, when a Richard Gough header secured a 1-0 win, as well as the Rous trophy.

“You used to have home ­tournaments and there were points involved in that,” said Strachan. “You used to get a ­trophy at the end of it. So that made it a wee bit different. Years ago, 30 years ago, there were only a couple of big games [a ­season] we watched on telly. That’s what we had. That’s what made it so big.

“Now we have so many big games on television that it kind of dilutes it a bit,” he added. “You have the Champions League. You’re watching Bayern Munich-Real Madrid, Real ­Madrid-Chelsea – you’ve got them all the time now. Years ago, we used to wait for this time of the season. That’s all your football [on TV] was.

“The FA Cup final and the Scottish Cup final are [also] huge but they’ve been diluted by the ­brilliance of what TV companies can do now.

“The build-up to these games in the Champions League or even just the English Premiership is fantastic.”

Strachan noted that Scotland fielded only three players from the English Premier League against Republic of Ireland on Friday night.

England, meanwhile, will field 11 players from that league this evening, with Fraser ­Forster, who is expected to start in goal, no longer an anomaly for his Scottish Premiership status, as was the case before he joined Southampton from Celtic.

Still, while Scotland’s quality on paper looks to be in shorter supply than ­England’s, Strachan was surprised to have to defend his side against suggestions made by visiting English reporters that the hosts might adopt an agricultural ­approach this evening.

They had been encouraged to pursue this line of questioning by comments attributed to England goalkeeper Ben Foster, who observed that Scotland and Ireland “were kicking lumps out of each other” on Friday. Clearly he had not seen the artistry ­involved in Scotland’s winning goal.

“He doesn’t need to worry because he [Foster] is in goals,” smiled Strachan. “It wasn’t a nasty game at all. I would have called it a really good game of football.

“There was an intensity there but there wasn’t a piece of ­nastiness in it at all – there is a big difference.

“Nobody was backing down and that’s what happens when two teams lock horns and don’t want to get beat.”

Asked whether he has heard such accusations of Scottish thuggery as he goes about his duties as a television ­pundit in England, Strachan, whose team is more defined by their diminutive stature, looked aghast: “No, this is new to me – we are only 5ft 6in, most of us!”

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