NEXT WEEK’S Scotland v England clash is the type of challenge Wayne Rooney will “cherish” as the striker prepares to begin a new century of caps. This, at least, is the view of Terry Venables, who was in Glasgow yesterday to deliver his assessment of a fixture that remains dear to him as well.
Rooney is set to earn his 100th cap this weekend against Slovenia and will embark on a new chapter on Tuesday at Celtic Park when he leads England out against Scotland. Venables ranks Rooney among the England greats and praised him for his ability to prosper despite the critics. “The game is getting more and more difficult for England, everyone is always on everyone’s backs,” he said. “But that is part of the game. He [Rooney] has had his difficult times but he has done terrifically well.
“I would like to think that [the Scotland game] it is the sort of game that Rooney will cherish. I think there is more to come from him, without doubt. What we have already had, I have been happy with most of it.”
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Venables recalled his warning to a team that included such talents as Paul Gascoigne when the countries met at Wembley during Euro ‘96, with England emerging victors. He urged them to remember that their opponents wanted to ‘batter’ them.
“That was my team talk,” he said. “They only want one thing – they want to batter us. And if you have a soft belly or they find the soft spot we are out of it. And I tell you that was the beginning of England improving in that area. Because they thought: ‘you [Scotland] are not going to come and get a free ride. And they will be thinking the same next week.”
Venables considers Scotland to be on the up and up under Gordon Strachan, but he cautioned against complacency. “It is there for all to see isn’t it?” he said. “The proof is in the pudding. The run is there for all to see. But don’t rely on it. It can’t go on forever. If you lean back just a little bit… you have to keep on top of it.”
Venables once turned to a Scottish player to replace the best footballer in the world when he signed Steve Archibald for Barcelona 30 years ago, after Diego Maradona left to join Napoli. The striker helped the new manager win the league in their full season at Barcelona together. Unsurprisingly, Venables considers himself to be a fan of Scottish footballers, despite their headstrong ways. He struggled yesterday to single out his favourite.
“You have had so many [good players], it’s fantastic,” he said. “Just look at Celtic for a start. We would be here ‘til supper. You have Jimmy [Johnstone], big [Billy] McNeill and [Bobby] Murdoch and Bobby Lennox.
“When we won the FA Cup Cup at Spurs [in 1967] back when I was a player it was the same year as when Celtic became the first British club to lift the European Cup. We both went to America for exhibition matches and went drinking together.
“We had three very good Scottish players, Jimmy Robertson, Dave Mackay and Alan Gilzean. We called them the Scottish soldiers.
“Eddie Baily, our coach, would look at them and go: ‘bloody footballers make you sick, look at the Scottish soldiers over there. I tell them what to do and they don’t take a bit of notice!’”
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