Ferguson fancies Scotland in ‘must-win’ clash v England

Date published: Tuesday 25th October 2016 4:09 - Ian Watson

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Scotland need to win at Wembley to get their World Cup hopes back on track – but he is optimistic they can do just that.

Scotland face England next month on the back of a disappointing qualifying double header, which saw them take one point from games against Lithuania and Slovakia, following a 5-1 victory in Malta in their opener.

Scotland lost 3-2 on their last visit to Wembley, but twice took the lead in the 2013 friendly, and won 1-0 there in their last competitive visit, going down 2-1 on aggregate in a Euro 2000 play-off.

Ferguson, who was back in his native Glasgow to promote Hampden’s status as a Euro 2020 host stadium, said: “I think they have to win it, but that’s not a problem. They can win it.

“If you go back to the European Championship a few years ago, they went down there and were very, very unlucky. In the last minute I think it was (Christian) Dailly who had the header that was saved by (David) Seaman. They’ll do well Scotland, they will be fine.”

Scotland quickly sold out their 13,700 ticket allocation for the November 11 game but Ferguson expects a bigger travelling support.

“Scotland always do well against England,” said Ferguson, who managed his country in the 1986 World Cup finals.

“It’s always a great incentive, the underdog. And the support will be fantastic, whatever they allocate Scotland it will be treble that. They will find tickets somewhere.

“Remember back in ’76 (1977) when they tore down the goalposts and I think the English football president said they were banning Scottish fans forever. Two years later there were only 80,000 of them. So they will not stop the Scotland fans getting in.”

When asked for his favourite Auld Enemy memory, the former Rangers striker quickly brought up the 1967 encounter when Jim Baxter and Denis Law inspired Scotland to a famous win over the world champions.

“The 3-2 game,” he said. “I was originally in the squad when Denis had a knee injury. But he was fit.

“My dad had never been to Wembley and he booked tickets because I was in the squad at the time. To win 3-2 was fantastic. Baxter again, fantastic.”

This month’s results briefly put Gordon Strachan’s future as Scotland manager in doubt amid reports he was considering his position.

But Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan never feared the former Celtic boss would quit.

“We never really got into that,” Regan said. “We talked about performance, we talked about what happens next, and Gordon knows that we need to get our performance back on track and improve our position in the group if we have got any chance of qualifying.

“We talked about the last three games and, more importantly, we talked about the next game.

“Gordon knows how important this is to the fans and how important it is for Scottish football to try and get a result.”

Regan remains optimistic that Strachan and his team can come good.

“We’re three games into the campaign, there are 21 points to play for,” he said. “Every team is taking points off everyone else. We are one point off the play-off places, we are three points off the top.

“There is a long, long way to go and we know there will be twists and turns in this group yet.

“We are disappointed with the performances. Clearly we’d like to be in a stronger position but Gordon knows that and Gordon has got to work out his plan to try to go down to Wembley and get a result. That’s what everyone is focused on.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson believes Glasgow’s record of hosting European finals was key to securing 2020 host city status. Hampden will stage three group matches and a last-16 match.

“It’s been the home to fantastic finals, I can’t think of a bad final,” the former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager said.

“It’s a great football home and the Glasgow people welcome these kind of events. You see the crowds over the years – 134,000 for Real Madrid against Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat Rangers in the semi-final that year 12-4. And then St Etienne-Bayern Munich was a full house.

“So it’s the right venue and a fantastic opportunity for Glasgow to show itself again.”

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