Brown sticks to long-term view

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The Independent Online
After shrewdly lowering expectations before the finals, Craig Brown felt obliged yesterday to caution Scotland supporters against over-confidence prior to Saturday's renewal of their auld acquaintance with England at Wembley.

Monday's encouraging stalemate with the Netherlands, who were second favourites to win the tournament, had the Scottish fans in Birmingham chanting: "Bring on the English." Brown, determined to keep his players focused on the "big picture" of qualification from Group A, pleaded for a sense of proportion.

"The danger now is that people will think we can go to Wembley and win automatically," the Scotland manager said. "Everyone in the camp is aware that all we've done is draw our first match and give ourselves a start. It's kept the section wide open. We were considered underdogs, but we never felt we were."

In his next breath, however, Brown claimed that Scotland were still underdogs against England: "We're happy for it to remain that way. But once the match starts the psychology won't come into it. It'll be the footballing advantage that counts. We think we can play better than we did against the Dutch. I've watched the tape and there were 20 minutes at the end of the first half when we showed what we're capable of. The overall performance was like a club side: Club Scotland."

The relaxed, jovial atmosphere of Scotland's press conferences has been in marked contrast with the mutual antipathy at England's gatherings. John Collins, asked about the moment he handled Clarence Seedorf's shot, struggled to keep a straight face as he replied: "My job at set-pieces is to protect the back post. That's exactly what I did."

Andy Goram interjected to suggest that Collins, a Catholic, might feel the need to go to confession. At which point Brown took the opportunity to praise his goalkeeper: "I'm bound to say that Andy would have saved the penalty anyway."

On a more serious note, he started the game of tactical cat and mouse with his English counterpart, Terry Venables, by intimating that he had already decided whether to stick with Monday's 4-4-2 formation or revert to his customary 3-5-2. Since England, like the Dutch, use wide attackers, it could well be the former, although Brown stressed that no back four of his would ever be "flat".

The word is equally inapplicable in relation to Scotland's followers, into whose devotion Brown gained a fresh insight when a fan stopped him as he left the Villa Park pitch. "He said to me: `I'm in disgrace - I've missed my son's wedding to come to the game'."