Scotland fans' noise, colour, passion and desire deserved more than Harry Kane's Houdini act

Harry Kane struck at the very end to deny Scotland after looked like Leigh Griffiths' two moments of magic had snatched them a famous victory

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The Independent Football

It would be easy for the current crop of English players not to realise quite how much this meant to the Scottish, but from the first moment their boots touch Hampden’s luscious verdant carpet, a wall of noise let them know. 

This was an occasion where it felt pre-match as if the football was outweighed by the significance of the game to the home fans, and the quality on show soon echoed that hierarchy of importance. Scottish supporters had not massed at Hampden to watch a masterclass of the beautiful game, this was about pride and country, about their oldest rival by any measure, not to mention the oldest rivalry in football history, and beating the English - by any means necessary. 

For all the gap between the respective sides in terms of quality, Glasgow was alive with the prospect of this meeting. Kilted gentlemen and tartan-clad ladies filled the streets of Scotland’s largest city from early in the morning. Glasgow Central station’s glass roof bounced around the bellowing songs and the droning bagpipes, powered by Buckfast. Hampden itself was raucous, teeming with home supporters who booed God Save the Queen louder than they even sang Flower of Scotland - and the latter was deafening. 

England kicked off and Leigh Griffiths hurtled towards the England midfield, chasing down and blocking the pass to a primitive, blood-curdling roar. Ikechi Anya chased the bouncing ball out for a throw-in, he was met with a standing ovation from parts of the ground. 10 seconds in the tone had been set. Low on quality, high on fire. And for 85 minutes that continued. 

There was a physicality and bite to Scotland that, for all their high-tech preparation and time at St George’s Park, Gareth Southgate’s men didn’t seem altogether that prepared for. 

The stereotype is of pampered Premier League millionaires “not liking it up ‘em” but how far is that from the truth when facing a team so brimming with passion that England never even hinted at matching?

It is the old football cliché of ‘wanting it more’ - a meaningless, intangible analysis but one that was not just felt at Hampden but quite clearly seen. The difference ultimately comes down to whether teams can make their quality show or not. In Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane, England had three of world football’s most exciting young players and even the likes of Raheem Sterling, on the bench, would be a star in this Scotland side. 

Leigh Griffifths' magic looked to have won it for Scotland (Getty)

But it suited Scotland to be without big names. Leigh Griffiths is more niggle and bustle than he is superstar but he would have his stamp on this game in the shape of two incredible late free kicks. One in each corner of Joe Hart’s goal, and one in the eye for England who appeared to have blown a win against a motivated by unambitious opponents. 

In defence of Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions, they showed the fight to get back into it when Griffiths' brace had felt like a punch in the stomach, winded while all around them Glasgow roared with unbridled ecstasy. 

Harry Kane’s late equaliser was celebrated with similar passion by the players, albeit against a backdrop of comparative silence. A game that barely deserved a winner didn’t have one, and both sets of fans left ultimately disappointed. 

Scotland’s support deserve better than what their team offered but improving that will require far greater work on multiple fronts. For now, if they can bring this much fire to every game then qualification for a major tournament - considering how fast the competitions are expanding - isn’t out of reach. 

It just feels very distant right now, after a gutting late equaliser that so quickly turned their passionate, burning joy into silence.