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.

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

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system