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Chris Darwen is a sports writer and author living his dream on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Tales From The Top Flight has been featured each week in the largest English speaking newspaper in the south of Spain for over a year now and he is delighted to have turned it into a blog. Chris is 37, still addicted to Football Manager and a proud shareholder in Real Oviedo.
Tales From The Top Flight
I tell you what, you’ve got to be a good side to wear pink haven’t you? The nation of Scotland would have been pumped full of national pride, ready to head over the border and teach those English a thing or two about football, just like they did in the good old days. Scotland, the footballing nation that gave us wee Jinky Johnstone, Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hutton. Scotland, the land of the brave. Wearing pink. Can you even imagine the sight of Souness ploughing through the back of Hoddle wearing that kit?
Funnily enough the Simpsons predicted all the way back in 2000 that any Scottish team turning up at the home of their most hated opponents wearing pink would be given a pretty sound beating. Mel Gibson will be turning in his grave.
If anyone felt this could be a Wembley classic in the world’s oldest ever international fixture the fact that both sides were managed by former Middlesbrough managers should have been the first clue. The second would have been the team selections. One can only presume that Strachan was resting some of his better players for upcoming fixtures? When you have one of the brightest young talents in the Bundesliga available to you and you are a side as bereft of flair as Scotland then it would make sense to pick Oliver Burke. Equally, when Matty Ritchie is thought of as the Newcastle version of Gareth Bale, give him a game too, maybe?
In the end, the fact that England won by three headers to nil should mean Southgate gets the nod for the England job full time. The deafening noise within Wembley Stadium was not from the fans cheering the goals, it was from southern based Liverpool fans furiously typing into their mobile phones, letting the world know that “their” club was going to win England the World Cup. Sure, Sturridge reminded the public that he is actually a very good striker and Lallana continued his fine start to the season but let’s remember that these boys are not Moore, Hurst or even Martin Peters. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose managed to play well at Wembley which will no doubt have offended Pochettino somewhat. Mind you, they weren’t facing wingers with half a brain and the ability to dribble the ball half a yard.
That said, 3-0 sounds like it was all England. Far from it my friends, far from it. Scotland, as bad as they were, should have been 2 or 3-1 up just after half time. But, as we know, England can be very cruel when it comes to Scotland and their chance to break free having passed them by, the English made sure they paid for it shortly after. That’s an independence and Brexit reference for anyone struggling to keep up. Plus the fact that James Forrest had his shooting boots on the wrong feet.
Maybe Grant Hanley should have had his shooting boots on his head, as his first half header at goal was the best clearance he managed in the entire game. I can only presume it was accompanied by the cry of “OOOOOOOOOOOOT!” as it flew off his head.
I am quick to criticize Wayne Rooney, which does not put me in the minority by any means, but it turns out he is actually better at taking corners than Harry Kane. Sterling was a little worrying, barely getting a kick for 90 minutes. Sadly, the one kick he did get was from one yard out to an open goal, and he managed to put it over. Even James Forrest shook his head at that one.
Scotland fans have a few issues with Gordon Strachan, understandably. Any man who, when 3-0 down against your biggest rivals, feels that the tactical solution is to change right backs probably needs to be called into the office and asked if he would like to resign and claw back the remaining shreds of his dignity.
On this evidence England are still far from banishing the memory of Iceland particularly as the Scottish fans took great glee pre-match in taking photographs outside every branch of the frozen food company they could find. Still, on the very same evidence and using the methodology we used to use in the playground as kids, Iceland would beat Scotland 5-1.
There was only one question remaining after the final whistle went. What exactly was Ryan Giggs doing there?
Even when Arsenal are not playing some Arsenal fans get a chance to question Arsene. Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick on his Germany debut, meaning people took to social media to decry this as another example of Wenger losing the plot. Folks, the hat-trick was against San Marino. Don’t add that to the list of reasons as to why you want him out.
Whilst England were being made to look reasonably average against Scotland, the Northern Irish were busy racking up four goals themselves against Azerbaijan. You never know, they might make it to Russia which is more than can be said for Wales. The clue was in their pre-match photo. The shape looked all wrong there and it continued into the match itself. Aaron Ramsey covered some ground, but sadly for him most of it was chasing his first touch. Bale scored, obviously, but Serbia equalised as Wales yet again failed to hold on to a lead.
Finally, Pogba scored again. Even Payet got involved, though he did say he was relieved to be playing in a match where he could look into the stands and not see a fight. James McClean scored the winner for the Republic of Ireland in a win that made Roy Keane smile for the first time all week.
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PPPS: Chris will be live on FANTVuk tonight (Tuesday) at 21:00 GMT – tune in on the Sky Channel “Showcase” on 212. To catch up on posts you may have missed head over to www.talesfromthetopflight.com and follow him on Twitter: @comeontheoviedo