Old rivals England and Scotland clash on Friday night at Wembley in a crucial World Cup Qualifier for both sides.
England interim manager Gareth Southgate has another opportunity to stake his claim for the permanent poisoned chalice as England manager. However, he has not impressed in his two previous games in charge with a dour 2-0 win against minnows Malta and a scoreless draw away to an average Slovenia side. That has added petrol to the fire of the doubters arguing that Southgate is not the man for the job.
Meanwhile Gordan Strachan could be fighting for his job in this game after a poor start to the campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Lithuania followed on by a 3-0 humbling defeat in Slovakia.
Scotland had a promising European Qualifying campaign and narrowly missed out to the Republic of Ireland for a play off spot. It was felt that Scotland could build on that and put themselves in contention for World Cup Qualification.
Both Southgate and Strachan need the win. Is the criticism towards Strachan too harsh? It certainly is when you consider the lack of quality at his disposal. Fellow countryman and Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas picked an ‘England vs Scotland best XI’ only to reveal it was only an England best XI.
“I’m afraid to say none of Scotland’s players would displace an England player. Perhaps the goalkeeper role would be the closest competition, with David Marshall in good form for Hull while Joe Hart has been bombed out by Manchester City.
“England have been pretty average but they’ve still got too much quality for Scotland, who really do need to go out and win to get back in the mix. A draw isn’t much good.”
Charlie’s ‘combined’ XI:
English players themselves these days are no world beaters so, is there any argument to be made for a Scottish player getting into the team? As Nicholas said, David Marshall has been in good form for Hull City and could push for a place ahead of Manchester City exile Joe Hart but he’s likely to be second choice to Torino’s shot stopper.
Scotland do have some young talent amongst their ranks. Celtic home grown left back Kieran Tierney is tipped for big things while Oliver Burke has been in fine form for high flying German side Rasenballsport Leipzig.
It is the central midfield area that would potentially represent Scotland’s best chance for success. Jordan Henderson is a very overrated player by the English media while Jack Wilshere faces an uphill struggle in order to return to Arsenal from Bournemouth. England have had far better midfielders in the past such as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes.
West Brom duo Darren Fletcher and James Morrison could certainly put their case forward as could Robert Snodgrass. Fletcher has bundles of experience of winning trophies during Manchester United’s glory years and Ferguson considered him a valuable player in the big games.
Fletcher’s red card against Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League semi final cost United dear for the final against Barcelona as despite possessing the likes of Ronaldo and Tevez, Fletcher was seen by many was one the most important players that season.
Illness set him back but he has admirably recovered and is a crucial part of Tony Pulis’ West Brom team, who have got off their season to a decent start. The former United man has more silverware than most England playerx apart from Wayne Rooney and he would fit in comfortably to the England midfield.
Midfield will be a key area of the battle at Wembley and it could go a long way to deciding which manager survives the chopping board.