England clash a ‘free hit’ for underdogs Scotland

Charlie Nicholas says Scotland will revel in their underdog status at Wembley.

England clash a ‘free hit’ for underdogs Scotland SNS Group

Scotland will revel in their underdog status against England at Wembley where they will play without fear, according to former national team striker Charlie Nicholas.

A return to a major finals for the first time in 23 years saw Scotland suffer a deflating 2-0 loss against the Czech Republic at Hampden Park on Monday.

Steve Clarke’s squad have regrouped as they prepare to travel to London to face England on Friday night, where another defeat would all but end hopes of progress from Group D.

Nicholas, who played for Scotland at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, expects a determined display at Wembley, where a positive result would lift spirits ahead of their final group match against Croatia back at Hampden

“We have been missing (from international tournament finals) for 23 years and we are playing catch up,” said Nicholas, who was capped 20 times and scored five international goals.

“Against the Czechs we made a couple of chances and they scored two really good goals, so overall, I’m gutted with the result, but I’m not downbeat about the performance.

“What you are trying to do in the first game, you could see the tension and the stress. They kind of ran out of ideas, but they never ran out of effort, heart or trust in each other.”

Former Celtic and Arsenal forward Nicholas believes being given little hope against Gareth Southgate’s star-studded squad could work in Scotland’s favour.

Nicholas told the PA news agency: “We are better when we are underdogs – and we are certainly that against England.

“Friday is a free hit, but the one thing you can guarantee is that the boys will be full up for it, full of adrenaline and the fear factor will go a little bit from this one.

“They have to hang in the game, though, because if they lose the first goal, they could be in trouble.

“But let’s keep pressing them, see if we can nick a draw and then it gives us something to play for going into the final game against Croatia, when a win will be everything.”

Nicholas, 59, added: “We can give ourselves some hope, but more important than that – if we do get beat, you want us to get beat when we have been having a go and I think they will.

“So while we might not be expecting a result, we are expecting a performance that can really trouble England.”

Nicholas will be supporting presenter Jeff Stelling as he walks four marathons in four days during his fourth March for Men for Prostate Cancer UK later this summer.

The Scot lost his father, Chic, to prostate cancer in December 2009.

“We are all trying our best to raise awareness, and the most important ingredient with all of that is the actual people on the walk, they all have stories about their family,” Nicholas said.

“The guys had read about my dad’s situation and they all also had their own stories to tell.

“It’s been fascinating for me to meet people who have been through grief and come out the other side with such positivity.

“The March for Men is all about putting one foot in front of the other and having a conversation. It has been the sheer enjoyment of it all which has kept us going.”

Charlie Nicholas will be supporting Jeff Stelling as he walks four marathons in four days through the North East, Yorkshire, Merseyside and London during his fourth March for Men for Prostate Cancer UK later this summer. To find out more, visit https://prostatecanceruk.org/jeffsmarch