Thursday, May 16, 2024
HomefootballEngland are benchmark for progress, says Scotland manager Clarke

England are benchmark for progress, says Scotland manager Clarke

LONDON – Boasting a 100% record in their Euro 2024 qualifying group and on the cusp of booking a place in next year’s tournament in Germany, these are heady times for Scotland.

Manager Steve Clarke, however, says the benchmark of how far Scotland have progressed will be discovered on Tuesday when they host England in a friendly at Hampden Park.

Friendly is hardly an appropriate description for a match that will mark the 150th anniversary of the first edition of the world’s oldest international fixture.

Bragging rights matter, especially for fans north of the border who will be desperate to celebrate a first home win against England since 1985.

It could be a double celebration too for Scotland if Norway and Georgia draw in Euro 2024 qualifying Group A — a result that would ensure group leaders Scotland finish in the top two.

“It’s been 150 years in the making — always good games,” Clarke, whose side earned a 0-0 draw in their last clash with England at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament at Wembley three years ago, told a press conference.

“In the modern era, certainly in my lifetime, England have probably moved a bit further in front. We are trying to close the gap on them and we’ll find out tomorrow how much we’ve closed that gap.

“We did well in Cyprus and now we see what we can do against a team that’s nominally a Pot One team, always in the later stages of tournaments. That’s the benchmark we want to judge ourselves against and we will find out tomorrow.”

Scotland won 3-0 in Cyprus for a fifth successive victory and should Norway and Georgia draw it would mean only Spain can catch them in the group. Clarke insists his only thoughts on Tuesday will be on beating Gareth Southgate’s England.

“The crowd might keep me informed but I’ll be focused on our match,” Clarke said. “In my head (qualification) is not imminent, it’s still a long way away and we’ve got to get it over the line.

“I’ve been in situations before as a coach or manager where you are trying to achieve a target with a club and sometimes the last steps are the longest ones so we will just focus on the game tomorrow night and what happens elsewhere happens.”

The first fixture between England and Scotland was played in 1872 — a 0-0 draw — and the two nations have since faced each other on more than 100 occasions with 48 wins for England and 41 for Scotland.

“I think the English hold this game quite close as well — they like to beat us. Don’t make any mistake about that, don’t think it’s more important to Scotland than it is to England,” Clarke said. REUTERS

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