Football: `It's a shame that both sides can't go through'

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The Independent Online
IN THE ENTIRE history of the world's oldest international fixture, which is now 127 years and 110 games old, it must have been a first - the victorious manager emerging grim-faced to describe himself as "gutted".

For Craig Brown, the knowledge that he had outsmarted Kevin Keegan tactically and guided Scotland to their first win at Wembley since their success under Jock Stein in 1981 was of no consolation last night. "Tony Adams ran 50 yards to put his arm around me and tell me: `Your boys were magnificent tonight'," he said. "Kevin said the same, but the bottom line is we're out of the European Championship finals.

"I feel really gutted by that. The hype was that we were here just to beat England, but as I kept telling our players that our job was to qualify for Euro 2000. We have failed, and that's a major disappointment."

Brown, who will today begin the seventh year of his managerial tenure, insisted that Scotland's absence from the Low Countries next summer would not lead to his leaving the post before his contract expires in 2001. "I honour contracts. I took a lot of criticism, but there's never been a game when I've been in charge when one player hasn't given 100 per cent.

"Everything we did tactically was right, at Hampden as well as tonight, but don't forget we were playing against a really good side who may yet do well in the finals."

Brown claimed that Scotland received "no breaks at all" in either match. Although far happier with the performance of the Italian referee, Pierluigi Collina, than with Spain's Manuel Diaz Vega in Glasgow, he felt the Scots had a case for a penalty when David Beckham baulked Callum Davidson in the second half.

The Scotland manager praised David Seaman for his "brilliant" save from Christian Dailly's header, while pointing out that his own goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan, did not have a single significant save to make.

Keegan, meanwhile, found the only good point of the night to be the result "I'm delighted we're there," he said. "We guessed they'd throw caution to the wind to pull back the 2-0 deficit and they did. I lost my unbeaten record and that's disappointing. But I lost it to a good performance by the other side.

"I had a few guys who ran themselves into the ground out there but four or five who were struggling." He added: "We really didn't pass it that well and that's been the biggest disappointment to me in qualifying. It's not been the quality I know that we're capable of. But we've got time now to experiment."

Understating the paucity of his side's performance Keegan said: "I don't think anyone let me down tonight but Alan [Shearer] will play better, Michael [Owen] will play better, Jamie [Redknapp] will play better in a different position." He did find some crumbs of comfort in the performances of Adams and Seaman. "Tony had to make a split second tackle [when Billy Dodds threatened in the second-half] and that was as good as I've seen. It tells you how he desperately wants to go to Euro 2000. David's save kept us in it. I don't think he had a chance with the Hutchison goal."

Perhaps with an optimism that flew in the face of the facts Keegan sought to stress that he has the makings of a side that can challenge for honours come next summer. "With David at the back and Alan at the front, stick a few in the middle and you can't go wrong."

Asked whether he had considered encouraging his players to do a lap of honour Keegan replied: "It's difficult to do a lap of honour when you've been beaten at home. But we might still do one on a bigger stage."

Perhaps the truest thing the England manager said in the post-match press conference was in reply to a questioner who asked what he had said to his counterpart, Brown, at the end. "I said `I thought you're team was magnificent' and they were. It's a shame that both sides couldn't have got through to Euro 2000."

Ireland go out, page 31