Scotland v England: Gordon Strachan inspired by squad's enthusiasm

Gordon Strachan: England match is a 'must-perform' game
World Cup qualifying: Scotland v England
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Saturday, 10 June Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Manager Gordon Strachan gave an upbeat assessment of his Scotland squad to face England on Saturday and hopes the enthusiasm in the camp can ignite the team's World Cup qualifying campaign.

"People are in good form and we must use that, use their enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the crowd," he said.

Strachan said he would be "stupid" not to make the most of the confidence of the six Celtic players in the squad.

Scotland are fourth in Group F at the midway point of the qualifiers.

With five games played and with a record of two wins, a draw and two defeats, Scotland, on seven points, trail group leaders England by six, Slovakia by two and Slovenia by a single point.

The group winners go through to the finals while the best eight runners-up play in two-legged play-off matches.

Celtic skipper Scott Brown leads from the front as the Scotland squad are put through their paces
Celtic skipper Scott Brown leads from the front as the Scotland squad are put through their paces

The Scots face England at Hampden and must hope their chances of reaching a first major finals since the World Cup in France in 1998 are still alive come September.

That is when the campaign resumes with an away tie against Lithuania and a home game against Malta, before October's concluding pair of games at home to Slovakia and away to Slovenia.

The spirit of the squad was a recurring theme in the manager's media conference on Monday.

"At times as a coach you're meant to inspire players, but the players inspired the whole coaching staff this morning," said Strachan.

"There's a group who have not played or trained in a long time and we put on a session that was going to be hard, an extra hard session for them.

World Cup Qualifying Group F

"It's players who drive the group on, and the players got together as a group and said 'we're doing this together', which was absolutely phenomenal - inspirational.

"The boys put a marker down this morning at the first training session."

Strachan called Saturday's game against the Auld Enemy a "must-perform game" rather than one they must win.

"If we have a bit of luck to go along with that, that's fantastic," he added.

"I'll go back to the game we played in November (a 3-0 defeat against England) and the boys performed.

"Unfortunately, the three headed attempts at goal went into the back of the net. Craig Gordon didn't have too much to do apart from that, but the players performed. The only thing that let them down was the finishing, and their chances were as good as the England chances, if not better.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan
Gordon Strachan's future as Scotland manager was the subject of debate ahead of the last qualifier, but he and the players kept their slim World Cup qualification hopes alive with a 1-0 win over Slovenia

"This is a huge game, an exciting game, a game everybody is looking forward to."

A Chris Martin goal in the 88th minute earned Scotland three points against Slovenia in their last outing, with Strachan calling it "a big performance".

"They performed when the pressure was on, so that gives me trust in them," he said.

"A lot of the things they did against England, that inspires me. I go back to the way they've looked after themselves and trained today, that adds to the excitement and confidence I have in them."

While praising the "wonderful, wonderful" England players at Gareth Southgate's disposal, the Scotland boss hopes to benefit from the buoyant Celtic players in the national squad - Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths.

"It would be stupid of me not to use that enthusiasm and that run of games they are on, and the pride they've got in themselves," said Strachan, who also spoke of Tierney's "great humility... and drive to be better all the time".

Scotland's remaining Group F fixtures
Saturday 10 June, Scotland v England, kick-off 17:00
Friday 1 September, Lithuania v Scotland, kick-off 19:45
Monday 4 September, Scotland v Malta, kick-off 19:45
Thursday 5 October , Scotland v Slovakia, kick-off 19:45
Sunday 8 October, Slovenia v Scotland, kick-off 17:00

The Celtic left-back, who could be used again on the right side of defence, trained while wearing a protective mouth guard after sustaining an injury in the Scottish Cup final.

Strachan said: "Tierney is wonderful. He joined in some of the training this morning and wanted to do a bit more, but we thought he'd better not in case of an accident. He's in a right good place at the moment."

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