EURO 2000: ENGLAND v SCOTLAND: Plenty of commitment, sorry absence of style

IN AN attempt to put one more spin on the dizzy swirl of Hampden hyperbole, Kevin Keegan was invited last Friday to select from a list of emotional extras. Was he nervous, tense, excited, worried? "All those things," Keegan replied, his explanation simply that Scotland would have more going for them individually than the media appeared to imagine. "They've got players who can pass it and run with it," he said.

In the context of unfavourable comparison with history, the long shadows cast by notable past Scots heroes of the game, it struck one or two listeners that Keegan had taken a convenient opportunity to stress that his influence and that of Craig Brown would be less important than the outcome of events on the field. Not the conflict of coaching minds in which Brown was thought to have an edge but of technical accomplishment.

Thinking about that on the eve of the match, odds of 5-4 against an England victory looked like the steal that persuaded one Scot to take pounds 1,000 to pounds 800 on the basis that he could profit from misery.

Certainly, there didn't seem much to justify Keegan's cautious assessment of the opposition. The conclusion reached by one past England player who took part in matches against Scotland was that it would be enough to be fully concentrated and match Scotland's passion. "It's always been the case," he said, "but in my time you'd then think, yeah we can manage that but Denis Law will be rattling into us, Dave Mackay will be all over the place, Jim Baxter threading it through with his left peg and Jimmy Johnstone dribbling us dizzy. No more. You look at the Scottish team now and there isn't a terrific player out there."

Far from being an isolated view it pervaded the thoughts of supporters who were only in good voice for as long as England took to impose their will on the game. After that there was only irrefutable proof that academic influences in Scottish football have failed to compensate for the decline in natural development. Where have all the players gone?

If proportionally better off, England have similar problems so Saturday's encounter was never likely to leave us with encouraging impressions of class and inspiration or warrant the attention drummed up across the airwaves and in newspapers.

In truth all England had to do was approach in it the manner of a Premiership club coming up against Third Division opposition away from home in the FA Cup. Match their muscle, suppress their spirit, silence the crowd and take it from there.

A simple exercise of comparison suggested that while Keegan had no cause to envy of Brown's selections his own could have strengthened Scotland's team in every position. It was that simple. "You come up here with those white shorts tucked up around your arses, we play you off the park, lose one-nil and off you go without a hair out of place," a disgruntled Scot once said to Bobby Moore. "Something like that," Moore replied.

None of England's defenders today come close to matching Moore's composure but they have a resolute quality that made it extremely hard for attackers of limited ability to prosper. Despite Brown's assertion that Scotland spread enough alarm in England's penalty area to deserve goals when Kevin Gallagher shot against David Seaman's legs and Billy Dodds struck the underside of the crossbar, too much of their possession was held in midfield when penetration was the priority.

Given the circumstances England's jubilation was understandable but nobody should get carried away with the idea that they are fully capable of improving upon a 12th-placed Fifa ranking if Wednesday's match at Wembley provides the expected formality of advancement to next summer's finals in the Netherlands and Belgium.

A domestic dust-up obviated the need for Keegan and his cohorts to agonise over the problems brought by more subtlety than Scotland had in their locker and it has become pretty obvious that Keegan puts greater store by the traditional British virtues of pace and power than his predecessors, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables.

The modernisation Venables and Hoddle pursued has clearly been set aside. Keegan reverting to the more direct method that was ideal for Saturday's encounter but has failed too often in the past against more sophisticated opposition.

Proof that the ills besetting British international football can be found in development policies came last Thursday night when England narrowly defeated Scotland in an Under-15 match. At an age when they should be encouraged to explore the extent of their talents the players were constrained by imperatives that called their coaches into question.

At a birthday dinner in London on Saturday night I fell into conversation with Malcolm Allison, now in his seventies, and John Cartwright, who once headed the old Football Association school of excellence at Lilleshall. Both are in despair of coaching in this country. "When I watched that Under-15 game I felt like smashing the television set," Cartwright said. "No encouragement for initiative, no sign of class. After all these years the game at that level is still in the hands of educators who can't see beyond winning. Is it any wonder that there wasn't much evidence of class at Hampden?"

England's victory there was achieved by standing up to passion and Paul Scholes's eagerness to fulfil a role seen by some of us as that of an old-fashioned inside-forward. Up and down, getting it, giving it and putting his name on the scoresheet. It's called commitment. Style is something different.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game