When England played the Netherlands at the 1990 World Cup finals, Terry Butcher could smell Ruud Gullit before he could see him; the Dutchman's cologne was as pervasive as his image and his talent
But just as the Oranje's flair could not stop them going out of Italia '90 early while England marched to the semi-finals, so Butcher, now Scotland's assistant manager, hopes the Netherlands' top billing can be undermined on Saturday when they host Scotland in World Cup qualifying.
"At one corner I was waiting on the near post where Gullit normally went and he wasn't there," said Butcher yesterday of the World Cup group game in Cagliari 19 years ago. "The next thing I knew I could smell this wooft of Armani aftershave, and there he was. His smell preceded him, like his reputation.
"The Dutch had big reputations then, and it's the same today because they've got great players but you can't be overawed by it. You can't think 'Van Persie, Kuyt, wow.' If you do that, you're sunk. Reputations should mean nothing."
Unfortunately for Butcher and the Tartan Army, Scottish frailties will be the week's theme, with 11 players missing or doubtful for the game in Amsterdam. They include David Weir (definitely out), his fellow centre-half Stephen McManus (unlikely to play because of an ankle injury), and Kirk Broadfoot, who can play right-back or in the middle but is definitely out. Which leaves one experienced central defender, Gary Caldwell, plus two rookies, Wolves' Christophe Berra and Falkirk's Darren Barr. That pair, both 24, have four caps between them.
Butcher will again draw on his own England experience to motivate them. "When I played at the World Cup in 1982, I'd only had four England games," he said. "And we played the French in the opening game. Platini, Soler, Larios, Rocheteau and all these people, Battiston, it scares me now just thinking it about it. I gave the French goal away, when Soler scored, I remember that."
But he also recalls he provided the assist within 27 seconds of the start for England's opener for Bryan Robson – and England won 3-1. "Being thrown in at the deep end is scary but once you get stuck in, instinct takes over. When you've been in squads consistently you're going to get an opportunity sooner or later, and if [Berra and Barr] are not ready to take that now, then maybe they never will be.
"Barr's been playing well for Falkirk as I know because I've been on the end of two defeats to them recently [as Inverness manager], and Berra is playing at the top of Championship with Wolves."
Butcher likened Scotland's trip to Inverness' visit to Rangers this month when Caley won 1-0. "You knowing you're going to be under the cosh, you know the home team are going to have an abundance of possession. So it's how you organise and how you stand up to it that matters. It's not outside the realms of possibility that something extraordinary could happen."
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