Scotland the clear winners - off the field

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The Independent Online
Scotland may have lost the game but their red-faced fans won the warm-up at Wembley yesterday.

In the inevitable kilts, wigs and apparently without their traditional McEwan's, brave knots of Scots captured the stadium concourse three hours before the game and never gave it up.

The England fans surged down the hill towards them from the station in double the numbers but were unable to silence the chants "1314, 1314" - a reference to the Scots' great triumph at Bannockburn - that greeted them.

The Scots had allies too - nice young Germans and Dutchmen in orange overalls, wearing brand-new Scotland scarves. They also had the advantage of surprise. Some had camped overnight on the patches of dry grass scattered meanly round the stadium car parks.

Angus McClelland had finished his shift as a bouncer in a Glasgow pub at 11 the night before and caught the bus overnight, arriving at a ground empty of Englishmen at 7am. "The English have better players than us," he said standing formidably bare-chested in his kilt, but they've not got fire in their bellies." He took a swig from his Coca-Cola. "We care for this. This is the fight."

Many of the England fans were still in central London at noon, roasting on the benches outside Baker Street tube station, a favoured meeting point for Wembley matches.

All of them seemed to be large men with very short hair. The off-licence nearest the Tube was beginning to run out of lager. But mildness reigned: Scottish fans drifting past were greeted with "All right, Jock?" and a pair of Czechs with "Good result against Italy."

On the stadium concourse the hot pre-hours were peaceful, too. The Kerry family from Norwich sat under a tree, their flag of St George planted in the dust. "The Scots do have incredible spirit, to raise themselves above their game," conceded Paul Kerry, the father. "I fancy an attractive game. We'll win 3-2. "

Up the hill at the Torch, a pub 200 other England fans had made their stronghold, opinions were less even-handed. Shirts were off, shoulders were burning and "Engerland! Engerland! Engerland!" echoed round the beer garden like a skinhead Glastonbury. But even here the Scots had infiltrated.

Jim Walsh had flown from New York to support Scottish captain Gary McAllister and the rest. "I had a few reservations about coming," he said. "But I don't think there'll be any problems." He broke off as a QPR fan shouted "Engerland!" in his ear. Walsh runs a football fanzine in America called Bookable Offence. "You get fed up with American sports. All the passion has gone," he said.

At 1.30pm the pub was required to close. Drinking-up time was a rushed two minutes before the police pushed the fans down the hill to the stadium.

The Scots were waiting for them, singing "Bonnie Scotland, Bonnie Scotland, we'll support you evermore" even louder than at noon.

But passion isn't quite enough, of course. At 4.45pm after two English goals and a missed Scottish penalty, hundreds of Scots were leaving as prematurely as they had arrived. One walked by, eating a burger, singing "We're shite and we know we are."

Full match report, page 32

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