Talking England: Pat Nevin

Manchester’s Finest

It is probably just as well that Scotland qualified for the Euros. In a COVID climate, it’s not possible this year for their players, fans and pundits to jet off on holiday this summer, knowing that the fact there’s a major tournament going on elsewhere is of little-to-no significance to them. No holidays this year. No holidays needed. Scotland are gearing up for a first major tournament since 1998, and Pat Nevin cannot wait.

Speaking to EnglandFootball.org’s Dom Smith at a recent event, Nevin saw the midfield as an area of real strength for his beloved Scotland. Talking ahead of Steve Clarke’s recent squad announcement, he said: “They’ve got [Scott] McTominay (pictured below) in there. But I’m hoping that, by that time, Steve Clarke will have Billy [Gilmour] in there. And to be honest, I’ve phoned Steve about five times [to convince him], because obviously Steve Clarke and I were teammates at Chelsea.”

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Nevin, who earned 28 Scotland caps between 1986 and 1996, will have therefore been delighted to see the video that emerged this week on social media. The clip showed Ben Chilwell filming Billy Gilmour’s reaction to getting called up to his first ever Scotland senior squad at just the right time. The 19-year-old Chelsea midfielder was sat on the sofa, his eyes glued to the Sky Sports News bulletin, searching intently for his name. When he duly found it, Gilmour immediately turned around and smiled at the camera.

Nevin, since retirement, has become a popular pundit on BBC Radio 5 Live. With that in mind, he was careful not to alienate too many England fans who will hope for a Three Lions win when the two sides meet at Wembley in the group stage, rather than a famous victory for the Tartan Army.

“Did you notice I never said anything about England?”, Nevin joked. “I’m not in any way anti-English, underline that! But on that day, I am purely Scottish. I just hope it’s a right good game. And I hope Scotland don’t let themselves down, because — player for player — England are miles ahead. But on their day, Scotland can be incredibly hard to beat, especially with Steve Clarke being the manager. So, it should be an interesting one.”

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Clarke said in his press conference when announcing the squad on Wednesday that his players became ‘heroes’ by getting to the tournament with a penalty shootout victory over Serbia in November. They ‘can become legends’ if they get out of the group at the tournament, he added. Nevin is in agreement.

“I hope it means something, because I want Scotland to have a chance of getting through.”

England and Scotland meet at Wembley in their second groups game, at 8pm BST on Friday 18 June. Both sides have home advantage by playing their group games at Wembley and Hampden Park respectively. The same cannot be said for the group’s two other sides Croatia and the Czech Republic, who will also be playing at the two UK grounds.

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England and Scotland haven’t faced each other since two wonderful Leigh Griffiths free-kicks and a last-gasp Harry Kane volley contributed to a highly entertaining 2-2 Hampden Park draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying. The group game next month will the best the first major tournament meeting between the sides since Paul Gascoigne’s outrageous volley and David Seaman’s penalty save helped Terry Venables’ team to a famous win at Wembley at Euro 96. Scotland have qualified for just a single tournament since then: France 98.

“Actually, just getting to this stage is unbelievable for Scotland,” says Nevin. “It’s so long since Scotland actually qualified, I was in the squad! That’s how bad it’s been!”

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