Sunday 17 December 2017

Hart relishing 'exciting' clash with old rival Scotland

JOE HART was only two when England's annual meeting with Scotland was scrapped – but the intense rivalry between international football's oldest combatants means there is no need to hype up tonight's Wembley friendly.

England have met Scotland only three times since the ill-fated Rous Cup concept was abandoned five years after the demise of the Home International Championships.

Paul Gascoigne's memorable effort secured a Three Lions victory at Euro '96, with both away teams prevailing in a Euro 2000 play-off that England just scraped through on aggregate.

In more recent years, Germany and Argentina have become the team England must beat above all others, with Scotland sliding down the FIFA rankings.

But this evening, a game first played in 1872 will have its 111th gathering.

And Hart is relishing the prospect.

"It is going to be exciting. You know how everyone is going to be on the outside, which always makes the game more interesting. Scotland are a team we want to beat. You can't get away from that fact," he said.

"It is good to have rivalry. I enjoy rivalry. And there is definitely rivalry between England and Scotland."

It has been suggested that the middle of August is not the greatest time for such a fixture.

England's players are just days away from their opening Premier League games, and while the Scottish top flight is now into its third week, given only six members of Gordon Strachan's squad ply their trade north of the border, the visitors are likely to be inconvenienced almost as much.

Not that Hart views the situation that way.

"Football is our lives," said Hart. "It is what we do. We have not just been plucked off the beach.

"You can't afford to come back overweight otherwise you will lose your place. The way football is now most of the boys like to keep themselves in good shape anyway.

"It will certainly be pretty easy to get up for this fixture."

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