The Scots and the Irish have plenty in common. They both like a tipple of whiskey, they can both boast of at least one ginger family member, and neither are overly keen on the English. However none of that will matter on Friday night as the two sides go head-to-head in Euro 2016 qualifying.
John O’Shea’s 94th minute heroics bagged Ireland a precious point away to Germany, while if Scotland had booted away a loose ball from a set-piece they also could have taken a point off the World Cup winners. Both sides have beaten Georgia, while Ireland tonked Gibraltar’s pub team and Scotland took a valuable point off Poland away from home.
It all sets up a mouth-watering fixture in Glasgow, where two former Celtic managers will be prowling the technical areas.
The two fiery managers stand-out managerial campaigns were their respective spells at The Hoops. Admittedly being involved in a two-horse race is far easier to win than a competitive league, but the games still had to be won.
At Celtic, Martin O’Neill’s win rate was 76 per cent, as he led the Celtic to three league titles, three Scottish cups, a Scottish League Cup and a UEFA Cup final which they lost 3-2 in extra-time against Jose Mourinho’s Porto. The two league titles O’Neill didn’t win were by the margin of one point and a goal. His record made him the most successful Celtic manager since Jock Stein.
O’Neill was replaced at Celtic by none other than Gordon Strachan. The Scot’s win rate was slightly lower than O’Neill’s, however Strachan led Celtic to three SPL titles on the spin – something Martin O’Neill hadn’t done – and bagged two League Cups and a Scottish Cup for his mantelpiece as well. Strachan also led Celtic to the last 16 in two Champions League campaigns, the first time Celtic had got that far since the tournament was re-formatted in 1993. Touche, Mr O’Neill.
The current Irish manager can boast of back-to-back promotions with Wycombe, two FA Trophy wins and a couple of League Cup wins with Leicester. The end of his spell at Sunderland which resulted in just three points from a possible 24 is probably one to scrub off the CV.
Strachan managed to take Coventry down in his first managerial job, but bounced back to take Southampton to an FA Cup Final. The Scot also had a fairly disastrous reign at Middlesbrough, but can presumably be proud to say that he managed to get Mido off Boro’s books by giving him to Ajax for nothing.
In charge of the national sides, Strachan goes into this crunch qualifier with a better win rate than O’Neill. Since taking over in January 2013, Strachan has won seven of Scotland’s 15 games including impressive home and away victories over Croatia in World Cup Qualifying. The narrow 2-1 defeat away to Germany was Strachan’s only defeat in his last nine games.
O’Neill has a win rate of just 36 per cent, but Ireland are unbeaten in 73 per cent of games O’Neill has been in charge in, whereas Scotland are unbeaten in just 67 per cent of theirs under Strachan. Bar a 5-1 hammering by Portugal in June, O’Neill has picked up plenty of good results with two hard-fought draws away to heavyweights Germany and Italy the pick of the bunch.
O’Neill leads the head-to-head battle with four wins over Gordon Strachan, to the Scot’s two, while the two men have battled out a draw against each other on three occasions.
Scotland are 7/4 to qualify for Euro 2016, with Ireland odds-on at 8/11 in a group which also contains Poland and Germany. Three points in this clash would be a huge boost for either manager’s ambitions of reaching France, although neither would be too unhappy if the spoils were shared.