Scotland and Ireland have plenty in common. We share a traditional proclivity to booze, a wishy-washy climate…not to mention the unpleasantness of being lumped in with the English for a few hundred years.
When it comes to football, however, we apparently have our differences.
Thanks largely to a pair of meddling Gordons – Strachan and McQueen – the forecast for crowd atmosphere at Celtic Park on Friday reads widespread boos, scattered hisses, and a cold front of bitterness coming in from the east.
It is now firmly established that fans don’t like players who don’t want to play for them and will probably make their feelings known. Who knew?
As it happens, James McCarthy has been ruled out due to injury, so Aiden McGeady will face the burden of being booed at Celtic Park all by himself. Poor lad. Not like he’s ever played in the Moscow derby, or anything.
A Scottish win this week would put them level on points with Ireland, who are currently second in a surprisingly competitive Euro qualifying table.
At the time of writing, Ireland assistant coach Roy Keane’s whereabouts are unknown. If last night’s Irish Twitter trends are anything to go by, he may or may not have punched Kim Kardashian at a Foo Fighters gig on the Rosetta comet. Or something.
With all that contemporary background in mind, here’s a look back on a selection from an admittedly scant supply of Celtic showdowns.
Scotland 4 – 1 Republic of Ireland
Hampden Park, May 1961
The first time Ireland faced Scotland under the Republic of Ireland moniker, the older of the two sides gave a master class. Drawn together in World Cup qualifiers for Chile 1962, a brace apiece from Ralph Brand and David Herd sealed victory for the home side.
Irish left-winger Joe Haverty, then coming to the end of a seven-year stint with Arsenal, scored the consolation – his only competitive goal for Ireland. John Giles was also part of the squad.
The return match was also a lopsided loss for Ireland, this time played in Dalymount Park and ending 3-0 to the Scots.
The Irish finished bottom of their three-team group that year, also losing twice to the former Czechoslovakia.
Scotland 0 – 1 Republic of Ireland
Hampden Park, February 1987
Mark Lawrenson scored the only goal in what was a must-win for Ireland on the Euro 1988 qualification trail. Beset by injury issues, Ireland employed a makeshift defence but despite this and the tight margin, the win has been heralded as one of Ireland’s best away victories.
On that fateful day, Ray Houghton learned a thing or two about being a product of the ‘granny rule’ – booed in his birthplace while his family watched in the stands.
“I was getting stick from the Scottish fans and they had to tell them who they were and who they were supporting,” said the Glaswegian-born Ireland legend earlier this week on Newstalk’s Off the Ball.
If it weren’t for Scotland seeing off Bulgaria, who had only needed a point, in the group’s last fixture, Ireland wouldn’t have been on the plane to Germany the following year.
Between that and spawning Houghton and co., we probably ought to have at least bought them a pint, right?
Republic of Ireland 1 – 0 Scotland
Aviva Stadium, May 2011
In what was, overall, a poorly attended and largely pointless friendly tournament, Ireland lifted the Carling Nations Cup (may it rest in peace and never again be resurrected) after a slender victory over visitors Scotland. Robbie Keane scored the only goal of the game, his 49th for the national side.
The week saw headlines dominated by the absence of James McCarthy and Giovanni Trapattoni’s difficult relationship with the then-Wigan midfielder. Also missing from the squad that week was Aiden McGeady, lost somewhere in the tundra/Russian Premier League.
As a result, he and McCarthy have, until now, conveniently dodged residual hostility following their declarations for Ireland.
That said, Roy Keane has been assistant manager for just over a year now. I suppose by now he has taught them a thing or two about hostility.
What to expect
Tomorrow night’s game will be the first competitive meeting between the two countries in 27 years. If the 1987 fixture and subsequent friendlies are anything to go by, expect a low scoring game.
Barring Ireland’s 7-0 rout of poor laymen Gibraltar, neither team has scored more than two goals in this qualifying campaign to date.
McCarthy has returned to Everton to undergo treatment. Aiden McGeady is expected to start and will undoubtedly face a bitter welcome, despite having scored 37 goals in 252 appearances for Celtic, as Strachan and McQueen have so astutely predicted…
Ireland could welcome back Seamus Coleman, who missed the Germany game with a soft tissue problem, but Kevin Doyle and Glenn Whelan are unavailable. Scotland are missing Alan Hutton but welcome back Charlie Mulgrew.
Three countries will qualify from the tricky group. With Gibraltar and Georgia unlikely to progress, and Poland and Germany jostling for first and second place, Scotland and Ireland face a tense battle for the remaining qualifying spot.