Darren Fletcher is determined to turn the Wembley crowd against England on Friday night. The Scotland captain knows that Wembley can be a difficult place for the home team to play, if the fans are frustrated. Scotland intend to make that so on Friday by shutting up shop early on.
“I’ve walked out here before and it’s a fantastic place to play, definitely inspiring,” Fletcher said at Wembley on Thursday evening, as he prepared to frustrate Gareth Southgate’s side in their World Cup qualifier, and toxify the atmosphere against the hosts.
“I have watched England games in the past, and you hear the uncertainty if they’ve not scored after 15 or 20 minutes. Hopefully that happens tomorrow because that will help us. It won’t be a nice place to play if it’s not going that well for England with that many people in the stadium. That’s something we can use to our advantage.”
After England drew their last game 0-0 in Slovenia, Fletcher knows how high the stakes are for the hosts and how desperate they are to get a result. Denying suggestions that this derby means more to the Scottish than to the English, Fletcher re-iterated his intention to turn England’s motivation against them.
“We saw at Celtic Park [two years ago] that England came out all guns blazing and that was a friendly,” Fletcher said. “They were led by Wayne Rooney, and they were just at it 100 per cent. So let’s not think that all the passion is coming from Scotland.”
“They know how big a game it is. The result puts them under a bit of pressure and it’s not been going too great for them. They get a bit of unrest from their supporters and it’s something that might help us the longer the game goes on. We’re not here to play for a draw but it would be a great result because the group is very tight and it’s still all to play for.”
While Fletcher hopes Scotland can turn the atmosphere against England, his manager Gordon Strachan emphasised the fact that they must not allow their own emotions to run away with them. He told his players that they cannot lose their discipline and their focus just because it is a derby in a noisy partisan Wembley Stadium.
“There is a line,” Strachan said. “I have played in Scotland v England games where people think it's fun to go about just booting people, most of the crowd think that's great and clap them when they get sent off and you're going down to 10 men. I've seen that where people try and endear themselves to the crowd, crashing into tackles, losing focus, getting sent off. It's no good to anybody. You have to stick to the plan. Within that plan be who you are, use that emotion if you are feeling stressed to run fast, jump higher, concentrate more, be braver.”
After a poor start in Group F, Scotland have four points from their first three games and lost their last match 3-0 to Slovakia. Strachan emphasised that they need a good result on Friday not just for bragging rights but for ‘respectability’ in their own campaign.
“It is a huge three points, and it is to get some respectability back because I felt we lost that in the last couple of games, a bit of pride so that's the huge thing,” Strachan said. “And a performance. Becuase it is the one place you want to perform and put on a good show because there are so many people there. That's who we are playing for. We are not playing for ourselves. We are playng for the group, for the people who are travelling here, anyone staying at home hoping we have won, we are doing it for them. Anything else doesn't matter.”
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