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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 18:39 GMT


An almost unbelievable turnaround

Ex-Liverpool star Hansen (centre) recognises team spirit when he sees it

News Online's Scottish expert Alan Hansen pays tribute to Craig Brown for an amazing Wembley comeback.

I asked after Saturday: "How many Scotland players would get in the England team?"

Battle of Britain
After Wednesday night's performance I pose a different question: "How many England players would you want in the Scotland team?"

It was a remarkable turnaround.

First of all bear in mind England's formidable record at Wembley.

For Scotland to win the game well and come away really unlucky not to force extra time was just incredible.


[ image: Craig Brown: Give this man the credit he deserves, says Hansen]
Craig Brown: Give this man the credit he deserves, says Hansen
Craig Brown's situation says so much about top level football these days. Never forget people wanted his head after the first game.

Well I've seen stranger things in football, but people calling for his head? No way.

What he's done over the last few years for Scottish football is remarkable.

That Wembley performance is 90% down to him for lifting a deflated team, which nobody - including me - gave a chance.

On Wednesday the Scots never let England into game, and over the two legs you have to say my team had more chances.

It must be seen as a one-off performance, and we see one-off performances in the Premiership all the time.

But when you talk about a team raising its game to that standard it's almost unbelievable.

Brown's braves

I still can't say it's the best Scottish side. It's not a team with great talent and if they played again next week England might win easily.

But during the last three qualification campaigns Scotland's biggest asset is their ability to play for each other, their team spirit and their ability as a unit.


[ image: Hutchison: Probably the best player in the Scotland team]
Hutchison: Probably the best player in the Scotland team
In my experience, that sort of thing is overwhelmingly down to the manager's ability.

If you're going to demand his sacking, then you have to look at what he has at his disposal.

If he's got great players and he can't gel them together, then fair enough.

But there is a difference between great players and good players, and Brown's only got good players.

The higher the level you go to, such as World Cups and European Championships, such players can only take you so far.

If you're going to go and win these things you need quality, combined with such organisation.

The French had it last year, the Dutch and Italians have it, and the Germans are the classic example.

Meanwhile England have the potential quality, with players who at Arsenal and Manchester United have a formidable spirit.

Yet they seem unable to play as a team, aside from the odd one-off performance such as in Rome two years ago, and against Argentina at the World Cup.

Wednesday was another one-off for England - a bad one - but they come up with too many indifferent performances, and that's what you measure a team on - not the great efforts or the awful ones.

Next step for Scotland

To get back to my own country, I again ask the other question I posed at the weekend: "Where do we go from here?"

Well the World Cup qualification campaign is less than a year away, so do you bring in younger players or work around the existing team?


[ image: How far can you go without great players]
How far can you go without great players
On Wednesday night's evidence, you stick with what you have got - and integrate new team members.

Don Hutchison is probably now Scotland's best player - a less temperamental character than the young man I played with at Liverpool. He is a good, intelligent footballer and a great asset in the air.

But we still lack a great striker. The lively Billy Dodds played well twice this week was desperately unlucky when he hit the bar.

And what of the youngsters? Neil McCann and Mark Burchill.

Well look at it this way. There are some young players, who you see and say straight away, "they'll get 50 or 60 international caps". I'm thinking of Michael Owen or Robbie Keane.

McCann and Burchill don't stand out in the same way, and if you were picking a young side from these islands, you would select the Englishman and the Irishman ahead of the Scots.

And even if the impressive midfielder Barry Ferguson might make it into that team, Brown's problem will remain finding a quality striker, or developing these young stars into the finished article.





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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

Lambert out of play-offs

Hendry's double jeopardy

Brown cautious over Hendry injury

The limitations of passion-play

England claim the prize

All quiet after Wembley showdown

Timeline: England v Scotland II

Hooligans face up to smart cameras

Cheers and tears for Scotland