International football takes centre stage this weekend, and arguably the biggest game of all is England’s trip to the auld enemy, Scotland.
Gareth Southgate’s men can expect a boisterous atmosphere in Glasgow, so we caught up with a man who knows a thing or two about this famous fixture.
With 79 England caps, only 16 men have ever turned out more for the Three Lions than John Barnes.
Speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes News while attending England’s training session at St George’s Park this week, the former England hero gave us his thoughts on the historic clash…
Ladbrokes News: John, England don’t necessarily need to win this weekend, but equally they could really stamp their authority on the group with a victory. How should England approach this game at Hampden Park?
John Barnes: England must treat this game in the same way to any other and play the same as they would in any other game. They shouldn’t do anything different, there’s no need to.
Of course they’ll need to keep their heads and use their experience. Hampden Park can be a real cauldron and it’ll be a fantastic atmosphere.
They can’t afford to get caught up in the emotion of it, although you can often end up playing with your heart in a game like England versus Scotland.
But I have no fears that England will slip up, they’ll put in a good, professional performance and get the result they are after.
LN: Are you concerned at all about Scotland? This is a game they really can’t afford to lose…
JB: Scotland are the underdogs here. Yes they need a result, but what they need to do is maximise their potential and hope England underperform. That’s their only chance.
These games are a real psychological battle, as to who can hold their nerve, who can hold their emotions and who can play the game rather than the occasion.
In many respects the Scotland team isn’t too dissimilar to the England team in terms of experience, so I expect England to hold their nerve just as well, and let their quality come through.
If England perform as they can, no matter what Scotland can do they won’t win.
So from that point of view England are in control of their own destiny, they’re in control of the way they play. Scotland can’t stop England playing.
LN: How does this clash compare today to when you were playing for England?
JB: The England – Scotland games are a little bit different nowadays in terms of individual quality.
In my day Scotland could really match England. They possessed talents Kenny Dalglish, they had Graeme Souness and you could well argue they had several better players than England did!
But today, on paper at least, England are much better. So they are favourites, and they have to approach it with the right mindset. They can’t be complacent and I’m sure they won’t be.”
LN:What do you make of Gareth Southgate’s performance as England manager so far?
JB: Gareth has done excellently so far. You need only look at the qualifying results and the way he’s carried himself since taking on the job.
He’s intelligent, he knowledgeable and understands modern football.
He understands young players, which is a factor in today’s game. Old school managers may not necessarily know how to treat young players. Gareth has been with the Under-21s for a long time so he knows these young guys very well.
For me he is the right man for the job.
LN: Finally John, we’ve got to push you for a prediction for Saturday night…
JB: Well, I don’t think England will concede, and I do think England will win. So I’m going England 2-0 Scotland.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing