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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT

Scottish spirit could pull us through

Alan Hansen (centre) during his glory days at Liverpool

Ex Liverpool stalwart and Scottish international, Alan Hansen, answers some key questions ahead of the crucial Euro 2000 playoffs between Scotland and England.

What are your memories of playing against England?

I only played in one game and was a substitute in another, and both times we were beaten. The biggest thing I remember are the faces of the supporters.

Battle of Britain
I remember coming back from Hampden and witnessing a sea of disconsolate fans. Forget the World Cup, forget the European finals, for Scottish fans, beating England is everything.

And this one is bigger than ever before, bigger than Euro 96, because at least both teams were there then.

Only one team can go through this time, so the stakes go up by 5000%. The first 20 minutes of the games will be as fast as you could ever believe. The danger is that the players might go over the top.

Craig Brown has undoubtedly got a job on his hands and he might have to play things down a little in the press.

What is it about the fixture that makes it unique?

It's a history thing, simple as that. Go back centuries if you like, to the battles of Bannockburn, Falkirk or Culloden, but at the end of the day the Scots like beating the English.

I don't think it's as big for England. But it would undoubtedly be a disaster if they did not qualify for the finals.

At the moment the English game is on a pedestal and that helps promote the game in Scotland.

Believe me, even if Scotland don't make it, the interest in the finals will be huge across the border.

Should the fixture become an annual event?

There are arguments for and against it. The fixture list is already badly congested and all the major clubs are now saying there are too many games.

The number of matches the Manchester United boys have to play this season is phenomenal, especially towards the end of the season, so it would be difficult to fit such a fixture in.

On the other hand, this game is undoubtedly special. It always has been. It's a game that generates massive interest, which is crucial for the sport.

I think that would dwindle, however, if it was an annual fixture. You certainly wouldn't have 1.2m people hunting for tickets.

I remember when I played for Liverpool in the mid-1980s. We went to Sammy Lee's restaurant to watch the game. Kenny Dalglish and I had our tartan kit on and Steve Nicol had his Scottish flag.

The game arouses passion. It's one of the greatest fixtures ever.

How do you rate either team's chances?

Firstly I think its good that Scotland have been written off. They're much better as underdogs, which they undoubtedly are for this fixture.

While they haven't got the individual brilliance of the English they have a tremendous team spirit, and as such, should never be written off.

If you go back to Euro 96, England were the strongest team on paper, but if McAllister hadn't missed that penalty, who knows?

It's going to be a tight match, everybody knows that and it could come down to one bad mistake or one piece of brilliance.

Scotland have a fighting chance, there's no doubt about it and the first game will be crucial.

We have to get off to a good start and we must settle quickly. More to the point, we have to unsettle England.

We also have to work collectively. We don't have the individual talent that England has, but team-spirit could pull us through.

Who is likely to be Scotland's key player?

For me it's Don Hutchison. I played alongside him in my last season at Liverpool.

He's good going forward, good in the air and now that he's started to control his temper he's crucial to the Scottish cause in the middle of the park.

For England, it's Alan Shearer.

He's been written off so many times, but time and again he proves people wrong. If England can put the ball at his feet he'll find the back of the net and with Beckham playing alongside him he'll always be a threat

Actually, the Beckham issue is very important for Scotland. We have to try to nullify him.

We musn't let the occasion get to us and play collectively, not individually.

How will Craig Brown prepare?

If I know him, the changing room before the game will be a pressure-cooker. Full of battle-cries. The first 10 minutes won't be for the fainthearted. The tackles will be flying in and it will be the side that settles first who will take the advantage.

I hope it's a strong referee. The last thing either side needs is for 6 players to be booked in the first 10 minutes.

In many respects, the first tie will be hard for England, because many of their players won't have experienced playing in such a place, where 90% of the fans will be shouting for the home side.

Keegan, I think, might try to play things up, get his side excited, but Brown may need to adopt different tactics. Whatever they do, when the changing room speeches are over, they'll both need to remind their players that there's no point playing for 75 minutes with 10 men.

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In this section

Scotland squad guide

England squad guide

Great border skirmishes

Generals in the firing line

A history of fierce football rivalry

Fans in court over football trouble

Scotland v England

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Hendry's double jeopardy

Brown cautious over Hendry injury

The limitations of passion-play

England claim the prize

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Timeline: England v Scotland II

Hooligans face up to smart cameras

Cheers and tears for Scotland