Lambert grabs victory for England
It’s shite being Scottish. Those words may have been famously spoken by a fictional junkie, but they’ve seldom felt more real than today. With glorious victory within reach, Scotland threw it away with the kind of defending a local under-12 team would be berated for. A bad enough way to lose a game of football under any circumstances but what makes it worse is the sheer predictability of it. Any other team, upon scoring a goal like Kenny Miller’s 53rd minute screamer would be on a high, and the fans lit up with expectation. But we’re Scotland, and the nation’s collective first thought was, “we might have scored a wee bit too early here.” This was obviously a sentiment shared by the Scots on the pitch who immediately shat themselves and generously allowed the English all the opportunity they needed to get back into the game. The famous Trainspotting rant continues along the lines that we can’t even find a decent culture to be colonised by and, similarly, we couldn’t even find a decent team to be beaten by. This England squad is decidedly mediocre but they put us in our place like the wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash Renton believed us to be.
You might think I’m over-reacting, and you might be right. When the dust settles, maybe I’ll look back and take some heart from a performance that was a million times better than anything Scotland could have produced under the Craig Levein regime. I’ll appreciate how far we’ve come in a short time and look to the future with at least a little optimism. I’ll accept that losing by the odd goal to a country with ten times the population of our own isn’t too bad a result. But now isn’t the time for that. Now is the time to be angry at how easily a golden opportunity was thrown away. It’s fourteen years since we last met the Auld Enemy, and who knows how many before there’s an opportunity to get our own back.
I’ve bemoaned the problems in the Scottish defence for Sabotage Times in the past and those warnings were spelled out in neon letters that could be seen from space at Wembley. The first goal is forgivable, since Grant Hanley, the very man who should have been plugging the hole that Theo Walcott stumbled into, was off the park injured at the time. But to lose two goals from straightforward setpieces really is the stuff of the schoolyard. Anyone could have scored those goals against us, such was their simplicity. Interesting that England should win the game with two headers from setpieces, since much of the paper talk before the game was of how Scotland were likely to take a physical approach to the game and that setpieces might be our best chance of beating the more skilful England side. As it transpired it was England who initiated the rough stuff: Walker should have walked and some of Gerrard and Lampard’s tackles in the middle of the park needed a parental advisory sticker.
Scotland conversely tried to play, and including Snodgrass, Maloney and Forrest in the starting eleven is worthy of admiration, which leads to a grudging analysis of the positives from a Scottish perspective. Scott Brown proved he’s not out of place in the company of Gerrard and Wilshere; James Morrison played with the kind of discipline and restraint that might finally counter his languid arrogance and make him a big player for Scotland. And, as for Kenny Miller, when did the aliens bodysnatch him and do we really have to take the real Kenny back? In fact, all that was lacking was belief that we could win the game, and the ability to defend. Gordon Strachan can fix the former, and he knows the latter is top priority: we can only hope and pray that he finds the answer.
For England’s part, they’ll make the usual noises about early season games, and the likes of Rooney and Wilshere are clearly nowhere near match fitness. Their World Cup rivals will hope they continue to delude themselves that Joe Hart is the world-class keeper they desperately want him to be, so he can continue to be their unnecessary Achilles heel. They won the game, and will no doubt be happy enough, but this is not a vintage England team and that is the most galling thing of all. This wasn’t a friendly for Scotland. With qualification for Brazil already gone in a puff of smoke, the remaining group games are the meaningless ones, playing only for a few co-efficient points here and there. This was different. This was a one-off opportunity for a result that would have meant something to Scottish fans, but the chance was squandered, against a very beatable England. The classic national tradition of glorious failure rears its ugly head again – it’s shite being Scottish.
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