England v Scotland: Southgate tells players to keep cool heads
Three Lions must maintain discipline to overcome 'aggressive' Scots, manager says
Gordon Strachan has stressed the importance to his squad of keeping a cool head tonight when Scotland take on England at Wembley in their World Cup qualifier.
The Scotland manager knows his career is on the line given his side's recent run of shocking results (four defeats in five matches), and a heavy defeat against the Three Lions could bring an end to his four-year reign.
But if there's pressure on Scotland, the same is true of their hosts after their disastrous European Championship campaign and last month's dreary goalless draw against Slovenia.
England, who are top of Group F, are favourites to win, but not by much, and it may come down to which side handles the pressure of the raucous occasion and doesn't let their emotions run wild.
"This is a game that could spook a few people but my players are intelligent enough to understand the importance of a fixture that is known throughout the world," explained Strachan, who played against the Auld Enemy several times during his own illustrious career.
"The atmosphere we will have at Wembley can drive people on to get unbelievable results and we’re hoping that will work for us against England."
Discipline will be crucial, added Strachan, telling reporters: "I have played in Scotland-England games where people think it’s fun to go about just booting people. Most of the crowd think that's great and clap the players when they get sent off and you're down to ten men. That’s no good to anybody."
England manager Gareth Southgate appears to believe that the Scots will be aggressive in their approach, and he said that he wants his players to play up to the referee if they think they're being roughed up. "I don't encourage players to cheat but if somebody fouls us and it should be a yellow card, sometimes you have to make sure that decision is taken," he explained.
"If a player is kicked and is hurt, just to bounce up and shake hands... I don’t know if that’s the rules the rest of the world are playing by. I think we should be more streetwise generally. I know that won't be a popular opinion but I'm in a professional sport. "
Southgate has shown his squad this week some clips of previous England v Scotland encounters, including England's 2-0 win at the 1996 Euros and their 2000 European Championship play-off in November 1999, the last time the two nations clashed in a competitive fixture.
England had the better of those matches but Southgate has told his players to live in the present and not the past.
"It's good to acknowledge the past and have an understanding of the past,” he said. "But it's about making their own history, not what's gone before."