Go Hard or Go Home with Colin Hendry: Best England v Scotland

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The Best England v Scotland Matches

There’s no rivalry – on or off the pitch – quite like the England v Scotland rivalry. When they go head to head on the pitch it’s sure to be more than a little rivalry. When looking at the stats, it’s a little more equal than you would think. Overall, they have played each other 114 times. Out of those, England has won 48 times, Scotland 41 times and there have been 25 draws. However, England’s wins are more recent, so in the modern era of football, the stats would look slightly different. So, out of those, what are the best England v Scotland matches?

Colin Hendry takes us through his list of the best England v Scotland matches in his opinion – including some he’s watched – and some he had the experience of playing in. Let’s see what he says…

1928 – The Wembley Wizards 5-1

Colin Hendry takes us way back to March 1928, with the ‘Wembley Wizards’ who certainly had their cake and ate it against England at Wembley. The Scottish team delighted the 80,868 crowd to annihilate the England team on home turf.

The background of the match sees both of the squads failing to win matches, with Scotland losing to Ireland and drawing with Wales. England had lost both of their games against Ireland and Wales. England went into the match with a poor record against Scotland and were going in as the underdogs.

The opening of the game was very dramatic, with England threatening to score in the first attach – hitting the post. However, Scotland responded quickly and Alex Jackson scored within 3 minutes of the opening whistle. Strong performances from Alan Morton and Alex Jackson forced the English defense wide – which left space for the Scots to exploit. England dug deep for a lot of the first half to keep the Scots at bay, but just before half time, Alex James scored the second.

However, it was the second half that was the most memorable of Scottish footballing history. The Scottish team raised their game and dominated the match. Twenty minutes in, they scored their third goal. Then, just ten minutes later, James got the fourth. Jackson then scored his hat-trick in the 85th minute to makes the score a resounding 5-0. However, with just one minute to go, Bob Kelly managed to stick a free kick past the Scottish goalie for a consolation goal. The final score was 5-1.

After the Game

At the end of the match, in his interview, Alex James said “We could have had ten!” and the team was on a high, with papers singing their praises. England’s defense came under a lot of criticism and very rightly so.  It was said that day that England weren’t just beaten, but they were left in shock. They were made to look inferior in every way. Despite their beautiful game, the Wembley Wizards were never selected as a full team again for an international match.

1961 – England Hit Back 9-3

To even it up, Hendry includes the 1961 match where England hammered the Scots 9-3. This was a very incredible match for several reason. Firstly, the Scottish team that they beat had some fantastic players at the time – including Dave Mackay, Denis Law, Davie Wilson and Billie McNeill.  However, the England team of that time was capable of putting goals away.

The England squad that played had managed eight goals against Mexico, five against Wales, five against Northern Ireland and three against Italy. They scored goals like they were going out of fashion. Their top scorer, Jimmy Greaves, was on fire and the tactics were simply pass the ball to Jimmy and he’ll do the scoring.

That day it seemed to work, during the match, Greaves scored a hat-trick; Bobby Smith then scored a couple, Bobby Robson scored, and Johnny Haynes passing skills were insane. The Scottish goalie, Frank Haffey, got a lot of stick as you can imagine. However, the England team was hard to stop and there was very little he could have done to stop the tsunami of goals.  The England players, quite rightly so, look back at their skills on that day with pride and concede that there was little the Scots could have done.

The Scottish Opinion

The Scots concede that it was not a game they were prepared for. They did not have a manager and the team was picked by a selection committee. They never picked the same side, no matter how good it had played. They even dropped Denis Law – European Player of the Year. There was no continuity, no guidance – and no tactics. The first two goalie picks were injured, but even so, the choice of Frank Haffey was a shock. All these issues together saw the merciless slaughter of the team. It was a killing they would have to make up for…


1967 – World Cup Beaters 3-2

A game Hendry then discusses is the game that made Scotland the unofficial World Champions – when they defeated the new World Champions, England. Fresh from World Cup glory, England were the team to beat. However, Scotland would not be intimidated and went into the fight with confidence.

Scotland was the underdog team. The English were undefeated since the World Cup win and were playing at home at Wembley.

The Scottish team that went on the pitch that day included four players who would go on and win European Cup medals. There were also 2 Rangers players who would go on to play against Bayern Munich in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final. As well as this, there were another three of Scotland’s all-time greatest Scottish players – Baxter, Law and Bremner. However, despite such obvious top quality in the team, no one expected them to win.

Before the match even began, the new manager, Bobby Brown, decided to give 36-year old Celtic keeper, Ronnie Simpson, his first ever cap. However, he made a fantastic country debut and couldn’t have stopped the two goals from Jack Charlton and Geoff Hurst. There were some injuries affecting the Scottish team with Bobby Murdoch and Jimmy Johnstone out.

The Rivalry

Captain, Denis Law, was enraged when England became World Cup winners and was all out for revenge and he was at the centre of most of the incidents in the match. He was also responsible for their first goal after 27 minutes.

The Scottish win was a result of not just individual brilliance, but also an incredible defense. The Scottish fullbacks were free to support the wingers Wallace and Lennox. Meanwhile England had the same Wingless Wonder formation that won them the cup. This never worked unfortunately and they had no joy against Greig and McKinnon.

The game was an interesting one to watch, with players making long runs forward with the ball, not being tackled – and making long shots at goal. It was full of dangerous tackles and was a game to remember for the Scots. However, the victory wasn’t enough to see them qualify for a quarter-final match against Spain as they followed it with some poor performances.

1977 – The Storming of the Pitch

A match that Hendry can remember watching, when he was just 12 years old, was the match in 1977 where Scotland beat England by 2 goals to 1. This, Hendry states, was arguably Scotland’s greatest team ever. “This team had Dalglish – who is out on his own as a player. He was the player who I looked up to and who was my hero. There were also other great players: the best Centre Half – Tom Forsythe, and the greatest Fullback, Danny McGrain.”

There were over 98,000 in the crowd at Wembley – and at least two-thirds of these were Scottish. McQueen scored for Scotland just before half time and Dalglish took them to 2-0 on the 59th minute. The English team only managed a conciliatory goal in the 87th minute to bring the score to 2-1.  However, it isn’t really the match that makes the game extraordinary – it was what happened afterwards.

Post-Match Celebrations

As the final whistle blew, thousands of the Scottish fans made their way to the pitch and carried Captain Bruce Rioch and his team shoulder high. As this happened, the Wembley turf was ripped from the ground and stuffed into the fans’ pockets – and even crazier fans snapped the crossbar. John Motson could only describe how scenes of joy turned into vandalism – and Wembley Stadium was wrecked.

It was partly because of this that the curtain was brought down on the Home Championships a few years later.

Due to the sheer number of fans on the pitch, the police simply didn’t have the resources to get them all from the pitch any time soon. It took over an hour to clear the pitch of fans and by then the damage was done. There are some Scottish fans that still claim to have turf from the Wembley Stadium in their back gardens.

1996 – European Playoffs

Hendry recalls this one well as it was one of the matches that he played in himself. England didn’t start off that well in their Euro 1996 campaign, but Scotland had got off to a better start than expected. However, England really got the tournament started when they beat their rivals 2-1.

England were hosts, and they got the scoring off the mark with a header from Shearer. However, they were just about holding onto the lead, with Seaman making world class saves. The Scottish were playing well and had their hopes inflated when awarded a penalty, which was taken by McAllister. Hendry says “We were in the ascendancy and were given the penalty kick. I wanted McAllister to take it, but the ball moved slightly on the penalty spot and he missed. Seaman saved it and that was when we took our eye off the ball a bit.”

This was where Gazza took centre stage. He dribbled the ball, chipped it over the head of Hendry, ran around him and volleyed the ball past Andy Gorem. Hendry says of this “I often get stick for this, but I remind people that it took arguably England’s greatest ever player to do that to me. Gazza has magic and he showed it. He was an intricate player; he was a dribbler. He could go round people, wrong foot players and go out on his own.”

However, the Scottish team refused to back down and carried on fighting, with an incredible shot by Gordon Durie that was saved by Seaman with his elbow. A world class save with a little bit of luck thrown in. It was a close call for England, and there were some tight moments and lucky moments, but it is memorable with some skillful saves and Gazza magic.


2000 – Winning at Hampden

This, Hendry says, was a “sickener for Scotland”. Another game that Hendry played and he recalls the despair as they lost to the England side, courtesy of Scholes’ two goals.

Hendry says “We were at home, and the support was there, so losing was very disappointing.”

Scholes outwitted the Scottish defense to silence the fans and give them a 1-0 advantage. He then doubled the lead twenty minutes later with a header straight from a Beckham free kick. However, they then sat back and rode their luck, letting Scotland dominate the play – but ensuring the defense was strong across the penalty area. Keegan, when asked, was delighted with the way they played.

A Misfire

Hendry, passed fit just minutes before the game, took an early booking for a tackle on Shearer, and caused the English team lots of problems at the beginning. Shearer was pretty much played out of the game. Seaman then had a fumble that almost cost them, but Dodds fired his shot straight over the bar.

Michael Owen, on form, caused problems for the Scottish defense and forced Kevin Gallacher into some bad challenges. The first goal from Scholes was almost followed by a Scotland equalizer, but Seaman made another top save. Scholes then cemented the lead. Dodds then missed another great chance. The second half was a lot less exciting – and the final score was 2-0 to England

They went on to play England at Wembley to get back into the tie, but knew they would need a big effort. It wasn’t to be and they walked away with just a 1-0 victory. Good, but not good enough. Hendry says. “I wasn’t 100% match fit and hadn’t played club matches properly for a while. I was disappointed that we couldn’t get that extra goal we needed. “

England won overall 2-1 on aggregate.

2017 A Draw 2-2

The last of the matches Hendry describes, was England’s draw against Scotland in the 2017 World Cup qualifier. Hendry recalls “I watched this match in Spain with Peter Reid. Most of the people in the pub knew who we were and the atmosphere was crazy. England were leading, I was getting a lot of stick, but then it turned on its head… with a crazy last six minutes.”

It took a long time for the goals to start being scored, but when they were, it was a fight til the death. Oxlade Chamberlain broke the deadlock in the 70th minute and put England on course for the win. However, Leigh Griffiths scored two incredible free kicks in the space of just 3 minutes to turn the game on its head. Scotland went into the four minutes of stoppage time in the lead.

Scottish fans were desperate for the final whistle – and for a good reason. It was just one minute before the final whistle that England captain, Kane, rescued his club with a far-post finish from a Sterling cross. This last minute goal kept England in the running for the World Cup, and dealt a blow to Scotland’s already very small chance.

Hendry said “When England and Scotland go head to head, players and team mates go face to face. I played against my Blackburn teammate Shearer; Gazza played against his Rangers teammates and there was always great banter.” There will always be intense rivalry between the two countries and there will no doubt be more memorable games in the future.

Colin’s Top Tips

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