Interim manager Gareth Southgate takes charge of England for the third time tonight as part of his four match job interview. World Cup and European Championship matches are the pinnacle at international level but in terms of history their is no bigger clash than when the Auld Enemy of England v Scotland face off. These two sides will be reviving hostilities at Wembley this evening with both sides looking for an all important three points to boost their World Cup Qualification hopes.
Southgate’s first two games in charge were somewhat lackluster in fairness. They only managed to put two goals past Malta although a lot of credit must to to Maltese keeper Andrew Hogg after a string of world class saves kept the score respectable. What wasn’t respectable though was the fact that England were then held to a 0-0 draw away in Slovenia just days later. In terms of auditioning for the England job full time it didn’t necessarily point to giving him the job full time.
That said though England do find themselves top of the group and two points clear of both surprise package Lithuania and Slovakia with Scotland a further point behind. A win tonight for England would give them a 6 point gap over their most historic rivals and almost consign Gordon Strachan’s men to a play-off berth at best if they are to have any hope of reaching a first international tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France.
Defeat to Slovakia last month has heaped pressure on Strachan with many wondering if this could be his last game regardless of the result. Should Scotland win then the hope will be that the Scottish F.A. can talk the former Manchester United and Leeds midfielder into staying on for the duration of the group stages but a defeat may mean that both parties decide that an amicable split may be the best outcome.
The main focus has been on players returning for this game. For the Scots, Celtic midfielder Scott Brown ends his own international exile and is ready to face off against England while for the home side Wayne Rooney is once again installed to the starting lineup and he will start the game as Captain. Manager Southgate felt that with Harry Kane just coming back from an injury he lacked the requited sharpness for this encounter and with Rooney now being welcomed back into the Manchester United fold it’s felt that now is the perfect time for Rooney to return to the England starting eleven.
Rooney is going to have his work cut out not just to compete against a Scotland side who will be up for this one but to also win over his own fans. He played to a chorus of boos during their 2-0 win over Malta last month as his performance was somewhat substandard. Unfortunately for England’s record goalscorer that has been the case too often when wearing the shirt with the Three Lions on it. Will Rooney live up to the big game occasion?
He certainly did when these two sides last met back in 2014 with the former Everton youngster bagging a brace in a 3-1 win at Celtic Park. That was when Rooney was hunting down Bobby Charlton’s England’s goalscoring record. With that hurdle now cleared the current record scorer is now focusing on Peter Shilton’s record of 125 international caps, tonight will be 119 and there is every chance that he could also earn that distinction before the end of these World Cup Qualifiers.
That is for another day though as England and Rooney can’t afford to take their eyes off of the immediate task which is go up against their nearest neighbours, a win for Gareth Southgate’s men will increase the chances of the former Middlesbrough boss getting the job on a permanent basis. A defeat and the English F.A. may have to consider casting their net out a little wider in their bid to name a successor to Sam Allardyce.
But I think England will go on and win this evening to put some clear day light between themselves and Scotland. The side needs to bounce back after the disappointing draw against Slovenia last month and this will be the perfect way in which to do so. Obviously Scotland are going to want to win this and not only spoil England’s party but have a huge party of their own unfortunately for them it will be the home side that gets the spoils Tonight. An England win for me.