This post is a small departure from my usual subject, but this week I watched a football match on the TV and, for the first time in a long while, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Although officially billed as a 'friendly', the game between Scotland and England provided a decent spectacle not only for the near capacity crowd at Celtic Park but also the millions of armchair fans such as me. Not even the banal tripe that one has come to expect from Adrian Chiles could spoil it.
The fixture itself is the classic international football match. No quarter given or expected by either team, honest endeavour and no little skill shown by both sets of players. The result was about right on the night, but there was no doubting the passion shown by the teams in their attempts to win the game. As an Englishman, I am very happy to see a renaissance in the Scottish national team. The present team may be some way off from the talents of past teams that included Law, Baxter, Dalgliesh, Bremner etc but they appear to have inherited the same drive and passion from their predecessors which. I believe, will have been instilled in them by manager Gordon Strachan.
During the course of the 90 minutes there were some decent tackles, physical contact, goalmouth incidents and, probably to the horror of many modern coaches, less 'possession football' played out between the back four. It was cut and thrust and, get this, only one player received a yellow card and that, at least, was for a tasty coming together. Players who were fouled didn't roll around and many just got up and got on with the game. It was an old school British football match, and a pleasant change from the sterile masterclass in cheating and gamesmanship that is peddled by so many professional players in the Premier League every week.
On the evidence of what I saw I think there is now a good case for the restoration of the home international championships. Maybe not every year as was previously, but perhaps every four years? The games can be played in the International windows as was this match. For me, an England match against any of the home nations is far more interesting than a Wembley date with the likes of Denmark, Norway or Peru and if it were to be hosted by Mr Chiles' I might be tempted to say to Mrs Listz, "OK, you can turn over for Don't Tell The Bride"
The current crop of English and Scottish players may, in many cases, be technically adrift from the raft of foreign players that play their trade in the English Premier League every week. Last Tuesday's match demonstrated that when a match is played by teams showing passion and commitment, an excellent and entertaining match can result.
Scotland v England is all about passion and commitment. Love it ! Welcome back!