Oldest fixture returns as Scotland set to play England at Wembley

The news that Scotland will play England at Wembley in August next year to help celebrate the Football Association’s 150th anniversary will delight the Tartan Army as they contemplate a march to their favourite away venue.

By then it will be 14 years since Scotland last played at England’s national stadium, a place that used to be written into the national psyche of Scottish football, the Wembley weekend being a rite of manhood for generations of Scottish fans.

The denizens of North London might have seen the drink-fuelled Scottish invasion differently, of course, but there was no gainsaying the enthusiasm of Scots for a trip to Wembley to play the Auld Enemy every two years from 1924 to 1988, excluding the war years, as part of the Home International Championship and latterly the Rous Cup.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The records show that Scotland first played England at Wembley in 1924, a year after the great venue opened. It was in 1928, however, that the Scottish love affair with the twin-towered stadium really began when Scotland beat England 5-1 with a team whose forwards stood no higher than 5ft 7in.

Going to Wembley suddenly became a cult affair. Wembley Clubs were set up so that working men could save towards the biennial trip, and special trains would leave Scotland for London carrying tens of thousands of fans. On occasion, the Scots got carried away, as in 1977 when Scotland’s fans dismantled the pitch and posts to celebrate the 2-1 victory. And any Scot who was alive in 1967 will remember that Scotland became “linear” world champions by beating World Cup winners England 3-2 in a match that has passed into legend for Jim Baxter playing keepie-uppie. The humiliation was not all one way. There have been disastrous Wembley occasions for Scotland too, like the 0-2 defeat during Euro ’96 when Paul Gascoigne scored a superb goal and celebrated with a pretend lager bath.

Records show that Scotland’s worst defeat in international football was at Wembley in 1961, a trifling 3-9 reversal. Celtic goalkeeper Frank Haffey was the poor chap in goal that day, and for years afterwards, if you asked a Glaswegian the time he was sure to say “nine past Haffey”.

We will draw a veil over the 2-7 defeat in 1955, and the 1-5 hammering in 1975 and merely remind our cousins down south that Scotland are the reigning Wembley Wizards, having won 1-0 in the second European Championship play-off match in 1999, England unfortunately having won the first match 2-0.

The FA is obviously a forgiving body, because the other friendly which they have scheduled to celebrate their 150th anniversary is against Argentina, who infamously tried to boot England off the Wembley pitch during the 1966 World Cup and then “Godhanded” them to defeat in Mexico 20 years later.

The match will also give Scotland’s politicians food for thought, coming as it will just a year or so before the promised referendum on independence.

Will the Scottish Government, for instance, hail England as the Auld Enemy or our new best friends?

Such niceties will not bother the Tartan Army who will bring their own colour and vibrancy to a rebuilt Wembley. May the better team win – that’s Scotland, of course.