Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland bigger than England, claims Gordon Strachan

By Ronnie Esplin

Gordon Strachan admits Scotland's joust with old rivals England at Celtic Park will play second fiddle to their European Championship qualifying clash with the Republic of Ireland four days earlier.

The annual meeting with the Auld Enemy was disbanded for various reasons in 1989, since which time the teams have met at Euro 1996 and in a two-legged European Championship play-off in 1999.

The fixture was then resurrected last year in the shape of a challenge match at Wembley and the reciprocal game arranged for November 18 at Parkhead.

However, the Scotland boss believes the match against the Irish at the same venue is "absolutely" the most important.

Speaking at Celtic Park, where his 27-man squad for both games was announced - Rangers' 20-year-old midfielder Lewis Macleod was given his first call-up - Strachan said: "Six or seven months ago, we were speaking about tickets for the England game.

"It's not happened that way in the last couple of months. It's all been about Republic of Ireland.

"Everybody enjoyed the occasion (Wembley). Even the English people I work with (in the media) thought it was fantastic. They work in big games, Champions League games, but they thought it was terrific.

"The players enjoyed it too. It is not a friendly and it is something we look forward to.

"The Republic game has overshadowed it in a way, which is great because it means there are things going on here."

But that is not to say the former Scotland midfielder is disregarding the game against Roy Hodgson's side.

Asked if he would take a "tanking" against England in return for three points, he replied: "No."

The meeting with fellow former Celtic boss Martin O'Neill, though, is taking precedence, and he believes the backing of the fans makes his side a match for anyone.

"We are all looking forward to the atmosphere," he said.

"I am sure Martin is looking forward to it as well."

The Ulsterman's side are behind Group D leaders Poland on goal difference with seven points from three games, while the Scots are in fourth place behind Germany with both teams on four points.

Strachan added: "If we can get three points that's great."

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