Heat is on England, claims Scots skipper Brown

Scott Brown will lead Scotland out at Wembley tonight. Picture: PA
Scott Brown will lead Scotland out at Wembley tonight. Picture: PA
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Scotland captain Scott Brown claims England are the team under most pressure going into tonight’s friendly at Wembley.

The fixture, to help celebrate the Football Association’s 150th anniversary, is the first time the two countries have met in 14 years and there will be around 25,000 of the Tartan Army in London to see the game.

The Scots sit 50th in the FIFA rankings while Roy Hodgson’s side are in 14th place, a fact which underpins Brown’s assertion, although the Celtic captain believes the visitors can overcome the odds.

“I think there is a lot more pressure on them to beat us,” he said. “We are the underdogs.

“But we have got great players and match-winners as well so we are all looking forward to it.

“It is going to be a great occasion taking the lads out at Wembley. It is going to be huge. It is definitely right up there – even bigger than taking Celtic out for the last 16 of the Champions League.

“It is going to be hard, high-tempo and a great occasion for the fans as well and I’m sure the Tartan Army will be there in their thousands.”

Scotland forward Don Hutchison scored the only goal of the game with a header when the two countries met in London in 1999 although the Scots lost their Euro 2000 play-off qualifier 2-1 on aggregate.

However, Brown remembers it as a famous Wembley win. “I was 14 the last time they played and it was a great goal by Don Hutchison, a header,” he said. “It was just a great occasion for every Scotland fan.

“There is no greater feeling than to play against England, especially as a Scotland player and a Scotland fan. I am really looking forward to the game.”

Manager Gordon Strachan decided against taking his squad to Wembley for a training session last night, .believing the players have already worked hard enough and did not need the hassle of travelling through London.

“We are feeling good,” he said, while admitting a couple of his players are carrying knocks which is delaying the naming of his team.

“We had a couple of sessions on Monday and a session yesterday morning.

“We were thinking about going to Wembley but with the journey over there maybe an hour, and then coming back, we knocked that on the head because I think they have done enough physical work.

“We’ll have a couple of meetings, analyse some video stuff and that’s about it.”

Strachan is no lover of friendly games but admits this match against England has got his juices flowing.

At Scotland’s team hotel in St Albans, he spoke about sensing something special about this fixture against the Auld Enemy.

“It is a friendly, a celebration of football, but the game is going to be competitive,” said the former Scotland midfielder.

“When I was a player and manager, friendly games didn’t really turn me on.

“I think players could sniff that from you, but it’s a bit different this one. There is pressure there.

“It’s a fixture we all want to see more often; players, fans, media, all want to see it.

“Even people who are not even football fans are interested in the Scotland versus England games.

“I know we play them in other sports, but this is the sport that everybody can attach themselves to and enjoy.”

To that end, Strachan has refused to make any promises to club managers who want him to go easy on their players.

The season in Scotland is up and running with Celtic trio Brown, Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest looking forward to the first leg of a crucial Champions League play-off tie against Shakhtar Karagandy next Tuesday in Kazakhstan, following a trip to Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday, while English-based players have just started their domestic season or are about to embark on a new campaign.

There will be a maximum of six substitutions allowed, but the former Celtic, Southampton, Coventry and Middlesbrough manager is not planning on a series of pre-planned interval changes, instead opting to use his bench only with a view to getting a positive result.

“A couple of managers have asked me about that, but I have to see how the game is going,” he said.

“It would be wrong of me to promise them that their player is going to play 45 minutes and then they end up playing 70 because of the circumstances of the game.

“If it is two centre-halves and I say one has to come off after 45 minutes but the other one got injured in the first half and I had to keep him (first one) on.

“So I wouldn’t promise any manager. All I did say was that I will look after your players as much as I can.

“I have been there myself. I remember asking an international manager to look after some of my players because we had Champions League games and he took two of them off with one minute to go – oh, thanks.

“So I think the managers will appreciate in this game that both sides are going to try to win the game.”