Saint Jude And Wide Boy Phil: What We Learned From England's 3-1 Win In Scotland

The 150th Anniversary Heritage match taught us a lot
10:00, 13 Sep 2023

England won 3-1 in their 150th Anniversary Heritage match with Scotland on Tuesday night. A nominal friendly, the crackling atmosphere and competitiveness made such a designation moot. Therefore the Three Lions must emerge with a fair whack of credit for handling the game so well. Particularly as Scotland have won five from five of their Euro 2024 qualifiers so far. This was an in-form side motivated further by an everlasting rivalry with England. But still, Southgat’s men emerged victorious.

In the cold light of day of course, this game will be reduced to a friendly in the eyes of most. Particularly those for whom Southgate taking England to a Euros final and a World Cup semi-final still isn’t enough.

But before we consign this game to the history books, can any lessons be gleaned from what took place at Hampden Park? Here is what The Sportsman gleaned from the latest chapter of the auld rivalry.


Phil Foden Is A Wide Player

Much of the build-up to the Scotland tie had centred on the position of Manchester City’s Phil Foden. Since his teenage years, the Stockport lad has been treated like the heir apparent to Paul Gascoigne. It is a comparison Foden has welcomed, even dying his hair a Euro 96 shade of Gazza blonde before the 2020 tournament.

Southgate caught widespread criticism for his decision to play Foden out wide in the days building up to the game. The manager rightly argued that Foden even plays as a winger for his club. Pep Guardiola has rarely seen Foden as a through-the-middle creator and it is perhaps time we let go of that notion of Gascoigne 2.0. Particularly when the 23-year-old has excelled in a wide berth. 

The Scotland game proved Southgate right. Foden scored England’s opener and was a constant source of inspiration on the right flank. It is time to let go of the idea that Foden is a central midfielder. Particularly when he’s this good on the wing.

Harry Maguire Can Do No Right

The Sportsman covered the consternation when Manchester United’s struggling former captain Harry Maguire was picked by Southgate. International has often functioned as a sanctuary for Maguire, a place where he is more composed and comfortable than in the Old Trafford cauldron. While social media reactionaries disagreed, there was firm logic in picking a player who has always given England everything. 

Against Scotland, the toxic fervour increased when Maguire turned the ball past his own goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale, and into the net. The reaction caused an emotional defence from Southgate in the post-match. But perhaps, with his confidence shattered and without regular club minutes, it is time to take Maguire out of the England spotlight and let him rebuild.


Jude Bellingham Is Truly Special

Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham is 20 years old. It beggars belief. Against Scotland the ex-Borussia Dortmund star looked like he could control time. So comfortable and aware was he on the ball, he was making the entire Scotland side move to the beat of his drum. It was a captivating display from a player who has been under the glare since his teenage years at Birmingham City.

Already proving wildly popular in La Liga after his summer move, playing more at a club of Real’s size will only improve his prodigious abilities. Which begs the question, if he’s this good at 20 how good will he be at 25? Bellingham hasn’t even begun to peak and when he peaks, you’ll know. The whole world will.

Scotland Are Getting There But Aren’t There Yet

Steve Clarke can be proud of his team despite this defeat. Losses to England will always sting more for cultural reasons, but a perfect Euro 2024 qualifying record is the key thing to hold onto. There were also lessons taught on that Hampden pitch that bear thinking about.

Clarke spoke after the game of the need to improve press resistance on the ball and it is true that Scotland do not yet boast a midfield to rival England’s. More urgency was needed off the ball too, with England finding the Scottish lines too easy to play through. But this was a no-consequences learning experience. Clarke can take lessons from it and apply them when Euros points are up for grabs in October.

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