Passion and patience the key for Scotland

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The Independent Online
The baser side of the Scottish psyche may still be demanding "an English heid," but Craig Brown's final rallying cry yesterday was altogether more measured. "We must play with the head as much as the heart," he said. "I'd settle for a boring 1-0 victory."

Scotland, returning to Wembley after an eight-year absence, would actually be content with a draw. Stalemate would suit them better than England, as Brown noted: "We think we have the easier final fixture, because we believe the Netherlands are a marginally better team than Switzerland."

Inoffensive as such a statement may seem, it is as close as the Scotland manager has come to criticising any of his country's opponents during their eight days in the heart of England. In stark contrast with today's hosts, their stay has been an outstanding public relations success, but Brown is seeking points rather than plaudits beneath the twin towers.

The Scots are convinced that they could not have been better prepared. For a start, to use Brown's phrase, they are "competition-hardened" - unlike England - having had to qualify from a group including Russia, Greece and Finland.

"Even our warm-up games were chosen with tough matches in mind," Brown said. "We played away to Denmark, the European champions, and the United States, as well as Colombia in Miami, which is virtually a home fixture for them.

"We lost all three, but I met Jozef Venglos (the former Czechoslovakia coach and Aston Villa manager) recently and he told me that when they won the European Championship in 1976 they lost all three friendlies beforehand. With respect to Hungary, whom England invited to Wembley, I feel we've had the harder schedule."

Even last month's pre-finals trip to the US, at a time when England were trekking to the Far East on their ill-fated jaunt with Cathay Pacific, is now hailed as ideal acclimatisation for the anticipated high temperatures in London. "On medical advice, we prepared in Miami so that we'd be able to cope with the heat and humidity," Brown said. " That 10 days is now looking very beneficial."

Brown's men may not over-heat, but might the big occasion make them freeze? "We won't be overawed. The guys from Rangers and Celtic play in front of Britain's biggest crowds week in, week out. The Old Firm game is bigger than practically any English fixture. Also, Alan Shearer's experience of European competition is less than, say, Tom Boyd's."

Moreover, England can no longer count on the Scotland goalkeeper to lend the kind of helping hands provided by Frank Haffey (between the posts when they crashed 9-3 in '61) and Stewart Kennedy (5-1 in '75). Under the guidance of Alan Hodgkinson, a former England keeper, the Bury-born Andy Goram has developed into a performer of exceptional technique and sound temperament.

The draw against the Dutch at Villa Park means that Scotland have conceded just three goals in 11 matches during this tournament. And one of those, in Athens, was a dubious penalty. Yet, if preventing goals has not been a problem, poaching them self-evidently is.

Brown has hinted that Ally McCoist, the only Scotland scorer into double figures, will play. That could be part of a misinformation campaign, though equally it may reflect an urgent need for goals. Any Scotsman scoring at Wembley is liable to find himself selected for Uefa's drug test.

The Scotland manager never reveals his line-up prior to a competitive fixture, let alone the formation in which they might play. It is probably safe to assume that all but one, or at most two, of Monday's side will start this afternoon, although the likelihood is that they will revert to the tried and trusted 3-5-2.

Should that be the case, Tosh McKinlay would almost certainly return on the left of the quintet. Like Stewart McKimmie and Craig Burley, who will contest the right-sided berth, McKinlay is equally comfortable as an orthodox full-back, which would allow Scotland to be flexible in their response to the way England play. It is in midfield that Brown appears to feel that the likes of Gary McAllister and John Collins may have an edge in mobility over Paul Gascoigne and company.

Those who have built up the game as a "British cup-tie", in which the more patient approach is put on hold for the day may, Brown argued, be in for a surprise. "We're not putting on the warpaint," he said, predicting a contest where passing would be even more important than passion.

In either instance, he does not expect his team to be found wanting. Bobby Gould, Wales' English manager, proclaimed Brown as a "master of man-management" after watching his final press conference. "In a one-off like this it could be down to who controls the nervous tension best," Gould said. "At the moment that's Scotland."

Back to Bannockburn, page 17

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