England v Scotland: What outcome means for Gareth Southgate and Gordon Strachan

  • england-v-scotland

England v Scotland: What outcome means for Gareth Southgate and Gordon Strachan

There has been a lot of speculation about how England’s World Cup qualifier with Scotland could decide the future of both teams’ managers but, for me, part of the scenario is pretty simple.

If Scotland lose at Wembley on Friday, I think Gordon Strachan will walk.

For Gareth Southgate, it is a bit different.

Southgate needs a strong England performance and a convincing victory for people to feel he deserves the chance to be manager on a permanent basis, and for there to be a bit of hope for the future.

But the likelihood is that he will get the job anyway, as long as he gets any sort of win.

Why Wembley may be Strachan’s last stand

Nobody was expecting Scotland to win Group F but they should be right in the mix for second place. Instead, their whole campaign has been disappointing.

The level of their performances has not been good and neither have their results – not just in qualifying for Russia 2018 but in all of their competitive fixtures over the past 18 months.

On top of that, there has been Gordon’s negative body language and responses in interviews.

Without going over old ground too much, I think he has given Scottish football a bit of a kicking at times with some of his recent comments.

When he said in the summer that Scotland were a nation of scared footballers, well if I was part of his squad then I would not be overly impressed to hear my manager say that. It can hardly have helped morale before qualifying started.

Strachan’s biggest problem, though, is how well Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland did at the European Championship.

People ask how many of the Northern Ireland squad would get into the Scotland squad – and there would not be very many of them. So it is fair to say Scotland should be doing better with the players they have got.

In that respect, Gordon has majorly underachieved in this campaign, which is why Wembley might be his last stand.

England have problems too

Scotland are not coming into the game in any sort of position of strength, but you could say exactly the same about England.

You cannot get away from the fact that England were really incapable against Slovenia and extremely lucky to get a point. They only did that because of Joe Hart’s saves.

The interesting dynamic for this match is that both teams are low on confidence, and there are reasons why both of them must feel they have got a chance.

If England’s players play to their capabilities then you would have to favour them to win at home but, looking at the team’s recent performances, that looks unlikely to happen.

I think Harry Kane should start the game up front but he has only just returned from injury. Behind him, Dele Alli is definitely out so there are question marks over who plays as centre-forward and as the number 10.

There are other problems too. It was in the wide areas that I thought England were exceptionally poor against Slovenia.

I keep hearing how Theo Walcott is on top of his game but he did not perform well against Slovenia.

Walcott has done better with his goal scoring for Arsenal this season but he is not a clever player, or one who has a lot of guile – he is all about pace.

We cannot be sure who Southgate will pick in attack and, while Scotland are at a low ebb, they should remember that this is not a brilliant England team by any stretch of the imagination.

England have not recovered from the way they went out of Euro 2016 to Iceland and have had all the manager shenanigans with Sam Allardyce’s appointment and exit since then too.

As I say, it looks like Southgate will get the job anyway but if Scotland win that would put his position in serious doubt.

Even a draw could do the same, so it is a huge night for him – I don’t think Tuesday’s friendly with Spain will come into the equation.

It does not appear that the Football Association has a plan B in terms of England’s next manager if things do not go to plan against Scotland.

But if the hosts get a positive result, I do think it would be right to keep Southgate on.

Pressure is on England, not Scots

It feels like the pressure is all on England to win, and that is the message Strachan should be getting across to his players in the build-up.

The biggest thing for Gordon to do, though, is to pick the right team this time.

He will not admit that he has got things wrong in previous games – when Oliver Burke was not even on the bench for the Slovakia game, for example – while what he said about Leigh Griffiths’ height as a reason for leaving him out was just utter nonsense really.

The big news in terms of his selection for Friday is that Celtic midfielder Scott Brown has declared himself available and been called up, less than three months after retiring from international football.

I know from listening to Charlie Adam on BBC Radio 5 live earlier this week that he is not overly convinced that was the right decision but I think it was.

Scotland are stronger with Brown in the side, and have a better chance of winning the game.

Where Scotland might fall short is at the back. They have got big issues at centre-half and full-back, where I think Callum Paterson could struggle. Paterson is a dogged and determined defender but this level is a tough ask for him.

That’s the reason I think England will win but, like most people, I still think they are bang average at the moment.

Everyone wants the England team to play a scintillating brand of football, and I am sure Southgate aspires to it. But the truth of the matter is that I will be sitting at Wembley watching the game, thinking that is not going to happen.