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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 15:54 GMT

Keegan arrives at 'magnificent' Hampden

Glasgow's rebuilt national stadium awaits its biggest day

England coach Kevin Keegan says his side are looking forward to the first Scotland versus England side to be played in the rebuilt Hampden Park.

Battle of Britain
The visiting squad trained in the new stadium on Friday morning, with Keegan declaring the 53,000-capacity ground "magnificent".

"Everyone thinks it's wonderful, with an excellent surface," he said.

The BBC's Mike Ingham: "Desperate for the talking to stop and the game to begin"
"It'll look a bit different when it's full, with 50-odd thousand main Scottish supporters, but it's a magnificent stadium.

"I remember the other one, which was also magnificent but a little bit dilipidated to say the least.

[ image: Keegan with members of his squad at Hampden on Friday]
Keegan with members of his squad at Hampden on Friday
"This is a wonderful stadium and it's a nice place to play."

The England coach, at his third major news conference this week, looked relieved to have something new to talk about.

Keegan admits that he has been asked the same questions throughout the week, and reporters were also delighted to ask him to compare the new Scottish stadium with its intimidating 130,000-capacity predecessor.

"Although it's still called Hampden Park, it's not the stadium I played in," said the former England striker.

Keegan on Hampden: "Everyone thinks it's wonderful"
"It's the same piece of ground, but there's nothing there that was there when I was there in the 1970s."

Keegan was asked whether the smaller version of Hampden would be an easier place to play an away game.

[ image: David Seaman: Experienced player Keegan backs to cope with the atmosphere]
David Seaman: Experienced player Keegan backs to cope with the atmosphere
"The best time to ask me that question is probably after the game tomorrow," he said.

"Whatever a stadium is when it's empty, a football stadium is built for people and once the people get inside that's when we'll be able to judge that."

But the coach believed his team would be able to cope with the atmosphere, with most having experienced hostile crowds in England and across Europe.

"We won't get a great reception," he pointed out. "I shall be preparing my players in the right way to expect that."

Keegan again refused to identify the chosen 11, and said he had not given the players full details yet.

"I think they've got a fair idea, but we'll leave the press to keep guessing and we'll show our hand at 1pm tomorrow when we have to."

Parlour fit for Wembley

The only enforced absentee is now Ray Parlour, who will be fit for Wednesday's second leg at Wembley after recovering from a hamstring problem.

Keegan is asked whether the new ground will be as intimidating: "Ask me after the game"
"We decided it was better for him to do work in the mornings and afternoons with Arsenal over the last couple of days rather than join up with us at a time when we are doing little in the way of physical work.

"The good thing is he will join up again with the squad on Sunday."

[ image: Keegan: Urges his men to grasp their chance]
Keegan: Urges his men to grasp their chance
And with the big kick-off just 24 hours away, Keegan challenged his players to make up for their disappointing qualifying campaign by seizing the chance to qualify this week.

"The players don't owe me anything in the sense they have always given their best for me but if you ask them I am sure they would say they want to put in a top-notch performance on Saturday," he said.

"I've been in charge for seven games and I could sit back and say we haven't actually lost in that time.

"But I know that in reality we haven't really played that well and we are due a performance when you look at the ability we have got."

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