England v Scotland: Lothians fans off to Wembley

From left, Paddy Tomlinson, a cutout of Ally McLeod, Martin Coull and Chris Dunn get in the mood at Sportsters. Picture: Greg Macvean
From left, Paddy Tomlinson, a cutout of Ally McLeod, Martin Coull and Chris Dunn get in the mood at Sportsters. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Thousands of Scotland fans have left Edinburgh bound for London on planes, trains and automobiles as both capitals gear up for tonight’s long-awaited clash against the Auld Enemy.

Last night more than 750 flag-waving members of the Tartan Army boarded a specially commissioned train after hours of revelling in the city.

A pre-match party was held at Sportsters Bar, by Waverley Station, where thirsty fans filled up while watching classic victories over their biggest rivals before boarding shortly before midnight.

Carriages were filled with the sound of pipers and football chants for the duration of the seven-hour trip to Euston.

Organiser Iain Emerson said tickets for the trip sold out months ago as fans clamoured to get on board the party train.

The editor of the Famous Tartan Army Magazine said he expected there to be even more celebration on the way back, predicting a 1-0 win to the Scots.

He said: “I’m sure we’ll beat England so it will be even more bouncing on the way back. We’ve got pipers, live music and plenty of singing. The atmosphere has been incredible so far and I’m sure it will continue.

“We’ve had a lot of dads who wanted to bring their sons along because they want to go back to the old days.

“It’s a massive day and I am sure it will be a lot of fun.”

The hotly anticipated friendly is the oldest international fixture in football and the first game between the two nations since the Euro 2000 play-off at Wembley in 1999.

Scottish fans have a well-documented love-hate relationship with Wembley, notoriously ripping up much of the turf and smashing up the goalposts after a 2-1 victory in 1977.

Hundreds of passengers happily flaunted the date in history, sporting T-shirts teasing “We’re coming for your goalposts”.

But there are high hopes there will be no trouble today, with Gordon Strachan openly stating he would like the match to become a regular fixture.

The warm-up for the World Cup qualifiers next month is the first time the Scottish team has set foot in the revamped £750 million stadium.

But Scottish construction workers are said to have left a stash of memorabilia under the “hallowed turf” of the new Wembley, which is hoped will bring the team luck.

Builders left tartan scarves, Saltires and football tops under the goal lines, penalty spots and the centre circle, as well as the home dugout.

Workers carried out the stunt after becoming the targets of banter and jokes from English colleagues about the performance of the Scottish football team, who haven’t reached a major tournament since 1998.

Rumours Scots fans would be stopped from entering with bagpipes on health and safety grounds had proved a sour note amongst fans.

After several high-profile complaints, the FA has since made assurances that registered players will be allowed into the 80,000 seater stadium.

SNP MSP Jim Eadie, who challenged Wembley bosses to allow entry to Scotland’s 
equivalent to cricket’s Barmy Army, said he expected the skirl of the pipes to carry the team to another famous win.

He said: “I think the pipes will inspire our team on to victory. I’m sure they can pull it off and I’ll be supporting them from Edinburgh.”

First Minister Alex Salmond has wished the national team luck after opting to stay away from the fixture on this 
occasion.

He said: “I wish the Scotland squad the very best in 
achieving a good result.”

Under the microscope

POLICE in London have increased security around the stadium ahead of the game, in a bid to clamp down on antisocial behaviour.

A dozen pubs at the east end of Wembley have been allocated for Scotland fans only, while England fans are being kept to the west of the famous ground.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police will also be keeping a keen eye on Scots during traditional pre-match partying in Trafalgar Square – with fans being warned that they’re banned from drinking in public.

A 12-strong Police Scotland team have also travelled to London.