Parkhead loses out to Hampden for England fixture

Former German international Oliver Bierhoff draws out Scotland's name in Group F of the World Cup qualifying draw on Saturday. Picture: Getty
Former German international Oliver Bierhoff draws out Scotland's name in Group F of the World Cup qualifying draw on Saturday. Picture: Getty
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SFA president Alan McRae last night confirmed Scotland’s Saturday night World Cup showdown with England will definitely go ahead at Hampden.

The Scots were landed with the Auld Enemy in Group F at Saturday’s St Petersburg draw, along with Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

The only reason the game was at Parkhead last year was because of the Commonwealth Games

Alan McRae

Last year, the oldest international rivalry in world football was played at Parkhead, which allowed around 10,000 more fans to see the game than if it had been played at Queen’s Park’s ground.

But new SFA president McRae, speaking after the draw, insisted there is no chance of a return to Celtic Park when the sides meet in June 2017.

He said: “The game will be played at Hampden. That’s our national stadium.

“The only reason the Scotland v England game was at Parkhead last year was because Hampden was out of commission for the Commonwealth Games.”

And SFA chiefs will soon meet for discussions with their FA counterparts over ticket allocation for the two games.

The Tartan Army were handed a bumper 20,000 allocation for their last trip to Wembley in 2013, which were quickly all snapped up. And England were also handed a generous allocation for last year’s friendly at Parkhead. But for a World Cup qualifier, allocations are likely to be slashed and McRae revealed talks will be held soon.

He said: “It’s probably too early to say, but we’ll try and get the best for our fans. I was at both games in 1999 [for the Euro 2000 play-offs, when England won 2-1 on aggregate] and they were terrific. Both games at Hampden and 
Wembley will be wonderful occasions for the fans and we’re very much looking forward to it.”

Talks are also likely with Police Scotland, who are likely to be less than amused at the prospect of a 5pm kick off for the Hampden encounter on a summer Saturday evening. However, Fifa is almost certain to insist the kick-off stays at the same time because all games must start at either 5pm or 7.45pm.

Meanwhile, Wales manager Chris Coleman, pictured right, reckons the Auld Enemy clash is too close to call. Coleman – who has led his Welsh side into Pot 1 for the draw and has a similar international derby to look forward to after his side were drawn against the Republic of Ireland in Group D – knows the two nations well.

Speaking after yesterday’s fixtures meeting in Russia, he said both games will be tight. Coleman said: “They will be two really juicy games. Scotland will look back at that friendly with England last year and be disappointed, but England played very, very well that day.

“They won the game well, but Scotland shouldn’t be disheartened from that and they will learn from it. Scotland are very much a team on the ascendancy. If you look at the group, then you would maybe have to fancy England to win it, but I think Scotland are more than capable of challenging them and certainly trying to get that second spot. They will fancy it.

“Look at Scotland in the Euros just now, they are doing great and have a good chance of getting to France. They’re on the up. I think Scotland will look at the two England games and say anything out the two games at all would be a result. You have to say that because England are obviously very strong.

“But England know they will not have an easy 90 minutes against Scotland. They will be well aware of that all right. The games will be very close.”

Coleman believes that because both sides know each other so well, they should know exactly what to expect.

He pointed out: “Both teams know each other inside out. Yes, the tempo 
will be high, but the guys are well used to that week in, week out in the English or Scottish Premier League.

“When you play against other countries, it’s different, the tempo is slower.

“So I think for Scotland and England – and like us against the Republic of Ireland – all the players will be used to the tempo. It will be breakneck, fast and furious and very physical.

“But all British players like that and everyone will know what’s coming.

“We’re all in contention for the Euros. England are through and ourselves, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic have all got decent chances of qualifying.

“It would be great for us all to get to France and Russia.

“Scotland have a lot more experience than us though in tournament football over the past 50 years though. So it’s an exciting time for football in our country and there’s loads to play for.”

Former Scotland manager Alex McLeish expects Gordon Strachan’s team to rise to the occasion of playing England. “I think there’ll be a lot of excitement north of the Border,” he said. “It’s a great challenge for Scotland. We’ll know England are favourites. It was a play-off last time around and if we get anywhere near that performance