England v Scotland: New manager Gordon Strachan breeds hope among the Tartan Army

A surprise victory over Croatia has improved Scottish morale as they travel to Wembley

What a difference a win makes. Especially one away to a team ranked fourth in the world.

It is fair to say that the mood as Scotland approached Gordon Strachan's fourth match as manager, against Croatia two months ago, was darker than the country's shirts. Successive defeats by Wales and Serbia had terminated any hopes of snatching even a play-off place from a strong World Cup qualifying group and the domestic game seemed to have reached a new low.

Yet the weakened squad thrown together not only inflicted Croatia's first competitive home defeat since England won there five years ago but, by all accounts, deserved to do so. "It was a very good performance as well, they played exceptionally," said Craig Brown, who as manager between 1993-2001 took charge of more matches (70) than any other Scot. "It's interesting now that after that good result and because it's England away, there's only one player injured. Normally you reckon five or six. That tells a tale, everyone wants to play now."

Indeed, the mood around the hotel in St Albans was what might be described as Jock-ular. Practice at Watford's training ground in the morning had gone so well that it was deemed unnecessary to undertake another session at Wembley last night and there were no further injuries, leaving Strachan plenty of options, albeit mainly from the Championship and lower reaches of the Premier League.

"We've got enough to put out a good side," he said. "And if we can keep the nucleus of this squad fit we'll be not too bad." The Croatia victory, he added, "made my summer a lot better, that's for sure." His first holiday as an international manager would have been a long drawn-out one without it.

What particularly impressed him in Zagreb was the players' discipline and he will be telling them today, Auld Enemy or not: "Don't get carried away with the passion and fighting and scrapping and 'You took land off us hundreds of years ago.' I always felt in an Old Firm match, the first team that lost its temper lost the game." There was no showing of Braveheart scheduled at the hotel.

Strachan makes the point that when Celtic and Rangers were at their peak, the national team would have anything up to a dozen players with abundant experience of European competition, which is no longer the case; Motherwell, Hibernian and St Johnstone – three-quarters of this season's contingent – are already out of the Europa League.

Brown, who led Scotland to their last two tournament appearances, in 1996 and 1998, nevertheless believes there are some promising youngsters coming through, who have not yet been snaffled away by less impoverished English clubs. "The best young player I think, now in the senior squad, is James Forrest of Celtic, a Theo Walcott type of flying winger. [Russell] Martin and [Grant] Hanley did well against Croatia at centre-half, which was a bit of a problem position. Then there's good experience in midfield with Scott Brown and Charlie Adam. [Shaun] Maloney from Wigan was playing very well last season and Kenny Miller's still around.

"So there's some optimism. But players come in cycles. You get a clutch of very good players at one time, then there's a fallow period. Fifteen years ago we had very good Under-21 and youth teams. The influx of foreign players didn't help at all when lots of clubs were bringing them in, which delayed progress. But if you're good, you come through anyway."

And as Strachan could not resist noting, in tune with the mood of the day: "Anyway, we've got Andy Murray."

Pitched battles: Scotland at Wembley

31 Mar 1928: Wembley Wizards

Scotland's first Wembley win ended 5-1. Alex Jackson scored a hat-trick as the visiting team became known as the "Wembley Wizards".

15 Apr 1961: Magnificent nine


England recorded their biggest victory over Scotland, winning 9-3. Jimmy Greaves scored a hat-trick (pictured), while Johnny Haynes and Bobby Smith got two apiece. (Picture credit: Getty)

15 Apr 1967: Champions beaten

Scotland's 3-2 victory was perhaps their most famous at Wembley; England were on a 19-game winning streak following their World Cup win. Scottish fans labelled themselves "unofficial world champions".

4 Jun 1977: Pitch invaders

Scotland won 2-1 through Gordon McQueen and Kenny Dalglish and Scottish fans invaded the pitch and tore down the crossbar in celebration. (Picture credit: PA)

15 Jun 1996: Euro-smash


Gary McAllister had a penalty saved by David Seaman in this European Championship group game in between goals from Alan Shearer and a solo effort from Paul Gascoigne for Terry Venables' England. (Picture credit: Getty)

17 Nov 1999: Academic victory


Don Hutchison scored the only goal as England squeezed into Euro 2000 2-1 on aggregate in the last meeting between the two teams. Paul Scholes' double had given Kevin Keegan's side a first-leg advantage. (Picture credit: Getty)

Jez Davison

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil