Brown left dreaming of wizards from past

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The Independent Online

When Jimmy McMullan, captain of the team in 1928, was asked if he had had hammered instructions into his team before they had dismantled England 5-1 at Wembley, he nodded in the affirmative. "I told them I don't want any unnecessary talking," he said. "Get on with the game."

When Jimmy McMullan, captain of the team in 1928, was asked if he had had hammered instructions into his team before they had dismantled England 5-1 at Wembley, he nodded in the affirmative. "I told them I don't want any unnecessary talking," he said. "Get on with the game."

"So had they?" a reporter inquired. "No," McMullan replied. Alex James had been talked incessantly from the kick-off. Then pausing to ponder a question about whether he had ticked him off, he added: "How could I? If his tongue went like a gramophone, then so did his feet."

History? A total irrelevance as Scotland tonight attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit inherited from Saturday to qualify for the European Championships? Quite probably, but it is a measure of the task facing Craig Brown's side tonight that the last Scottish team to defeat England by more than three goals beneath the Twin Towers was McMullan's Wembley Wizards.

The past, to put it mildly, does not favour the Scots. Brown has despaired this week that the mood north of the border has been one of unremitting pessimism, but if the Tartan tabloids have discounted his chances, then precedent mocks the Scotland manager even even more.

Scotland have won by two goals on English soil on only four occasions and just once, in 1949, since the Second World War. In the current European Championship campaign they managed only one victory on their travels, over Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in the qualifiers that took them to the 1998 World Cup finals they were successful away from home only twice. In that period, just one result would have been enough, if repeated tonight, to take England to extra time: a 2-0 success in Lithuania.

On Saturday, Brown, clutching for slender hope amid bedraggled Tartan despair, listed the number of countries who have conceded goals to Scotland away from Hampden Park and came up with a list that read: Brazil, France, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Germany. As my colleague, Phil Shaw, conceded, it was an prestigious litany that was spoiled by a small fact - four of those games were lost and only one, a friendly in Bremen, had been won.

As history fails the Scots it bolsters England, who have not lost by three clear goals at Wembley since the Mighty Magyars of Hungary stunned the football world by winning 6-3 in November 1953. Since then only the West Germany of Franz Beckenbauer, Gunter Netzer and Gerd Müller in 1972 and a Brazil that boasted Ronaldo and Juninho in 1995 have gained the 3-1 results that would ensure Scotland's passage through the play-offs by dint of away goals.

In the last 21 months, England have twice lost 2-0 at home, although, with due respect to Billy Dodds and Mark Burchill, the Scots do not possess strikers of the quality of Marcelo Salas or Nicolas Anelka, who scored the goals for Chile and France.

"We have to get at them," Brown said this week, "but at the same time we must be patient - look at Manchester United in last year's Champions' League final. In any sport, be it golf, snooker or football, leads are lost and the least we need is two goals."

The past suggests a minor miracle is what Scotland need. What would the current manager give for the Wembley Wizards' forward line - Jackson, Dunn, Gallacher, James and Morton - tonight?

1877 Kennington Oval

England 1 (Lyttelton) Scotland 3 (Ferguson 2, Richmond)

1881 Kennington Oval

England 1 (Bambridge) Scotland 6 (Smith 3, Ker 2, Hill)

1928 Wembley

England 1 (Kelly) Scotland 5 (Jackson 3, James 2)

1949 Wembley

England 1 (Milburn) Scotland 3 (Mason, Steel, Reilly)

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