Strachan hails Scotland’s rematch with England

GORDON Strachan has welcomed confirmation of Scotland’s rematch against England later this year which could pave the way for the return of football’s oldest international fixture on a more regular basis.
Gordon Strachan: Relishing test. Picture: Phil WilkinsonGordon Strachan: Relishing test. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Gordon Strachan: Relishing test. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The visit of Roy Hodgson’s squad on 18 November will be staged at Celtic Park, four days after the same venue hosts Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Republic of Ireland, as Hampden will still be out of commission due to its current reconfiguration for the Commonwealth Games.

It will be the first meeting of Scotland and England in Glasgow for 15 years, since Paul Scholes netted both goals in a 2-0 win for the visitors in the first leg of the Euro 2000 qualifying play-offs.

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The traditional annual fixture between the teams, first staged at Hamilton Crescent cricket ground in Glasgow in 1872, came to an end in 1989 following persistent crowd trouble, increasingly prohibitive cost of security arrangements and an expanded competitive international match calendar.

But the appetite for the ‘Auld Enemy’ clash has been revived by the friendly contest staged at Wembley last August as part of the English FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Over 80,000 fans – including an estimated 25,000 travelling Scots whose conduct was praised by police – saw England come from behind twice to claim a 3-2 victory. Scotland manager Strachan is eagerly anticipating the prospect of trying to overturn that outcome when the teams meet again in November in another challenge match.

“We have enjoyed an encouraging build-up to our Uefa Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and I am sure the players, the coaching staff and the fans will love the chance to go head-to-head with our oldest rivals again,” said Strachan.

“Like our supporters, I was really heartened by the performance against England at Wembley and believe we had a great opportunity to record a win we could all have talked about for years. Now, we have that chance again and I am sure the players and the fans will be even more determined to take it.

“The atmosphere at Wembley was incredible and I am sure with Celtic Park filled with Scotland supporters, it is a game the whole country will look forward to.”

The match against England will be part of a six-game season ticket package from the SFA which will include the five home fixtures in Group D of Euro 2016 qualifying against Georgia, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Poland and Gibraltar. The package will go on sale at 2pm tomorrow.

Scotland will open their bid to finally reach a major tournament finals for the first time since 1998 when they take on newly-crowned world champions Germany in Dortmund on 7 September. Strachan, who saw Joachim Low’s men triumph in Rio as he worked as a pundit for ITV, is relishing such a daunting assignment.

“Having watched the World Cup in Brazil as an analyst, I have seen first-hand how good a side Germany really are,” added Strachan. “I am sure the players and fans will all be looking forward to the challenge of a team who deserve their crown as the best team in the world.”

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Ibrox will host Scotland’s first home match of the Group D campaign, against Georgia on 11 October, before Strachan’s men head to Warsaw to face Poland three days later. The 14 November visit of Martin O’Neill’s Irish squad will have added spice at Celtic Park where he enjoyed a highly successful tenure as manager.

It will be the first time the stadium has played host to a Scotland fixture since the 6-0 defeat of the Faroe Islands in September 2006.

“Celtic Park is renowned as one of the world’s finest and most atmospheric football stadiums,” said Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.

“We have hosted many great Champions League events and recently the Scottish Cup and League Cup finals and, of course, it will be a privilege to host the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games next week.

“We are delighted that the Scotland v Republic of Ireland and England games will be held at Celtic Park and I’m sure they will be two very exciting and memorable matches.”