England 3 Scotland 2: Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has replaced defeatism with spirit

 

Wembley

Who needs competition when you have this much conviction? This was a friendly match – albeit one much better than we are used to – but Scotland attacked it with a courage, tenacity and purpose that had been desperately missing from the national team for years.

Conviction does not just mean bravery or enthusiasm or pride or any of the basics that every national team can produce. It means a real belief in a plan to win, and it might well be the difference between Craig Levein's Scotland and Gordon Strachan's.

Scotland began both halves with the clear intention of winning, scoring at the start of both. Only two second-half set-piece goals cost them what would have been a thrilling win. A better-directed shot from Steven Whittaker with three minutes left might have earned them a draw.

But the players projected this new feeling and their fans – the loudest at the new Wembley – could sense it. The players that Strachan has are no different from Levein's but they played with a spirit they could barely have mustered under his sorry tenure.

Kenny Miller is not every Scot's choice to lead the line, and might well not have done had Steven Fletcher been fit, but he did not look like a 33-year-old who had flown over from Vancouver for a midweek exhibition game.

Miller was relentless from the start, buying free-kicks from defenders, hassling the corner out of Phil Jagielka that led to the first goal and then scoring the brilliant, confident second, spinning 20 yards out and firing the ball beyond Joe Hart – who could do less about this one than the first – and into the bottom corner.

His partner in relentless annoyance, in endless commitment to the game-plan, was his captain Scott Brown. Experienced players need to lead by example and that is precisely what Strachan had Miller and Brown do. The Celtic midfielder won his running battle with Jack Wilshere, pushing the England man off the ball at will, even darting past him as well.

It would have been too easy for Scotland to sit back and wait, but they pushed England hard when they lost the ball and Brown was at the heart of this, passing and starting attacks with enough precision to frustrate the slow-starting hosts. He even – and Brown does not need much encouragement to do this – played the game with the unapologetic honesty it required, not going out of his way to be friendly with England and letting their players know what he thought of them. Unfortunately for Scotland and Strachan it was not in a winning cause, but there is more than one way to lose a football match and this is far less dispiriting than what they were used to.

Remember the defining moment of Levein's reign, the 1-0 defeat in the Czech Republc in October 2010 when the manager played a 4-6-0 formation, with no intention of winning the game, only to lose it to a set-piece.

Not only did that particular defeat hamper their chances of reaching Euro 2012 – they drew the return fixture at Hampden Park to an unlucky late penalty – but it discoloured the whole Levein era. His was a Scotland team that did not want to win, that hoped to cling on for as long as possible and hope for the best.

Strachan's era might just be different. They have already won one big game under him, beating Croatia 1-0 in Zagreb in June. That was a competitive game in a futile campaign. This was a friendly but one that might just leave hopeful omens for their next long qualification race.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks