Scotland v England: Strachan forced into rethink

The eagerness to be involved in the first Scotland v England clash to be staged in Scotland this ­century means Gordon Strachan has been forced to reconsider plans to significantly change his team ahead of tonight’s game at Celtic Park.

Gordon Strachan is pleased by the eagerness of his players. Picture: SNS
Gordon Strachan is pleased by the eagerness of his players. Picture: SNS

Despite what Strachan ­suspected was a “dilution” of the fixture due to the amount of other big matches shown routinely on television, he has been encouraged by the level of intensity detected among the players.

Several of those who featured in Friday night’s bruising Euro 2016 qualifying encounter with Republic of Ireland, and who Strachan considered leaving out of tonight’s starting XI, have made it clear they have no wish to be rested.

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“I need to rethink my strategy,” said Strachan. “I had an idea a couple of days ago but the players that played the other night keep banging on that they are fit enough to play again. They’re dropping hints everywhere I go. From training today, nobody wanted to be rested, that’s for sure.”

Gordon Strachan is pleased by the eagerness of his players. Picture: SNS

Asked if this was because of the identity of the opponents, he admitted: “I would say that it’s a wee bit of that.”

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England have not played in Glasgow since the first leg of a Euro 2000 play-off 15 years ago. Scotland have only beaten the Auld Enemy once at home in more than 30 years.

Although only a friendly, and while the main task was ­accomplished on Friday, there is still much at stake. “We’re only human,” added Strachan. “If someone said to us we are playing some team who are 70-odd in the rankings we wouldn’t be as excited around this table, any of us. We only want real, ­competitive games. This is a competitive game – even if there are no points available.”

Midfielder James Morrison is available again after feeling ­unwell on Friday. “James is better now, far better,” said Strachan. “He had a real bad virus. He says he watched the [Ireland] game on his phone [in the hotel].”

Darren Fletcher sat out training yesterday but should take part in a light training session this morning. Chris Martin looks set to start for the first time in place of Sunderland striker ­Steven Fletcher, who has ­returned to his club after injuring his foot against Ireland.

With David Marshall nursing a groin strain Craig Gordon will start in goal for Scotland for the first time since a 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands, four years ago this week.

Strachan seems ­delighted at the zest he observed in training. It is a refreshing change from ­hearing stories from other international camps of players being unwilling to increase the risk of injuries in friendlies. Even Roy Hodgson had the unusual situation where Raheem Sterling informed him he was too tired to start a ­recent Euro 2016 qualifier against ­Estonia.

“Messi and Ronaldo, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, they’re all playing 60-odd games,” said Strachan. “The top players’ mindset is ‘play, play, play’ so then what you think is hard work is not hard work to them, it’s the norm.”

Despite his own personal ­anguish at having lost to ­England at Wembley last year, Strachan admitted that tonight’s game is one he would be encouraging his players to enjoy.

He admitted that the crucial assignment was the one successfully negotiated by Scotland at the same venue five days ago. Now they look to end an international year of further improvement with a win that would constitute a perfect thank you to the supporters after their backing on Friday night.

The SFA have confirmed that more than 52,000 tickets have been sold for tonight’s fixture.

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