Back pages stick the boot into England


The back pages stuck to boot into England on Saturday morning after the team was held to a goalless draw in the ‘Battle of Britain’ by a defiant Scotland during the two historic rivals’ Euro 2020 clash at Wembley on Friday night.

The verdict in the papers was that the Three Lions delivered a ‘lifeless’ performance – which mustered up just one attempt on target – while Steve Clarke’s superb team were fully deserving of a point, and perhaps deserved more.

England’s captain and star striker Harry Kane cut an isolated figure up top again, handing further cause for concern to manager Gareth Southgate, while both defences stole the show on a drizzly evening that failed to live up to expectation.

The uninspiring performance at Wembley by the promising England squad was the focus of many chief football writers, with papers also focusing on Harry Kane’s struggles in front of goal.

A picture of Kane – lying prone on the Wembley turf – featured in many of the newspapers – with the optimism following England’s opener against Croatia all but gone from the back pages.

The Daily Mail: ‘England fall flat’

How they reported it: The Daily Mail’s back pages acknowledged that England’s result against Scotland still puts them in a good position to top the group – needing a win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday to do so.

However, The Mail’s Chief Sports Writer Martin Samuel said the performance was of concern, and that Southgate will need to re-think his tactics before the next match. 

‘What has to be conceded is that England feel short,’ Samuel wrote, pointing to the mis-firing Kane and the lack of a player in the England side who was able to use their skill to rise above the fray and win the game, as Paul Gascoine did in 1996.

Meanwhile, Samuel wrote that Scotland had more about them than Croatia – England’s first opponents of the tournament – and their young player Billy Gilmour was able to control the midfield better than his English opponents in that area.

The Sun: ‘What a shower’

How they reported it: According to The Sun, England looked ‘nervy’ when they came up against their ‘Auld Enemy’ Scotland on Friday night. 

The Sun’s Chief Sports Writer Dave Kidd said after hearing accusations from the Scottish camp of England’s arrogance, that the Three Lions were not arrogant enough in their approach to the match.

Kidd wrote that Harry Kane’s substitution 16 minutes from the final whistle showed that Southgate is facing a crisis over his captain, ‘who looked to be running through porridge at times’ during the game.

England experience showed, and according to Kidd there were ‘far too many sub-standard performances’, with Kane’s being the most concerning.

The Daily Express: ‘Blank of England’

How they reported it: The Daily Express also focused on Kane’s performance, saying it summed up England’s night. The captain was the ‘major casualty in a war of attrition,’ Matthew Dunn wrote for the newspaper. 

Dunn called the final result a fair one, but also one that people will be unlikely to talk about in 25 years time in the same way the last time the sides met in Euro 96 still is today.

Scotland’s early chances appeared to leave England’s player ‘paralysed’, Dunn wrote, adding that England final group game against the Czech Republic could be their toughest yet.

‘Who knows what path into the knockout stages they might be left with,’ he said.

The Daily Mirror: ‘Deadloch’

How they reported it: ‘Lifeless England and struggling Kane fail to spark against battling Scots,’ was the Daily Mirror’s summary of the match events on Saturday morning, which was a ‘right auld muddle’ for the Three Lions.

England found the pace of Scotland ‘too fast and furious’, according to the Mirror’s Chief Football Writer John Cross, with Southgate’s men left looking ‘pedestrian’ compared to the Scottish players who ‘wanted it more’.

After all the anticipation and build up leading to Friday’s clash, it was Scotland who seemed to rise to the occasion more, compared to England who looked ‘nervous and intimidated,’ Cross wrote.

The writer also praised the Scottish fans, who made their voices heard in the rain.

‘If there were really 3,000 Scotland fans inside Wembley every one of them made an incredible noise but it seemed like there were more – and they were desperate for revenge,’ he said.

Cross also pointed to the Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who he says was very fussy, and blamed him for causing the game to become scrappy, with England’s biggest cheer of the night coming when Jack Grealish was brought on.

The Guardian: ‘No Kane do’

How they reported it: The Guardian pointed to England’s hopes that Friday’s match against Scotland would be the chance to make a statement and qualify for the last-16 in front of their home fans. 

But instead, David Hytner wrote, the night turned into one of frustration that saw England’s flaws exposed to the delight of the thousands of Scottish fans.

While Scotland created the better chances – Hytner pointing to a well-struck volley from Stephen O’Donnell – England had very few, with the Guardian also leading with a picture of Kane lying flat on the turf, with the headline ‘No Kane do’.  

Southgate now has much to ponder, Hytner wrote. With so much attacking talent in the team, the England manager needs to figure out how to get the best from them.

The Daily Telegraph: ‘Kane Pain’

How they reported it: England were ‘brought to a juddering halt by Scotland’s blue wall’ according to The Daily Telegraph on Saturday morning.

The fixture asked difficult questions of England, the newspaper’s Chief Football Writer Sam Wallace wrote, adding that Euro 2020 was transformed into a much more uncomfortable experience over the clash with Scotland.

Wallace credited Scotland manager Steve Clarke with ‘calling it all perfectly’ by ‘unleashing’ their young star Billy Gilmour upon England.

The writer also noted that it did not take long for the mood to change in the stadium, with fans booing the Three Lions at both halftime and on the final whistle.

 The Times: ‘Do we need to talk about Harry?’

How they reported it: ‘Do we need to talk about Harry?’ The Times asked on Friday, joining the other papers by answering with a resounding ‘Yes’.

The Times’ Chief Football Writer Henry winter also said that the bruising match against Scotland will have left Southgate with much to think about before Tuesday.

‘England were so much less than the sum of their stellar parts,’ Winter wrote – a contrast with Scotland who rose to the occasion as a collective.

Winter joined others in going as far to say that Scotland probably deserved more than a point from the game, which leaves them joint bottom with Croatia, who they will need to beat next week to have any hope progressing into the last 16. 

But while there will be much criticism of Southgate, Winter wrote, it must tempered – especially after the manager steered England to the World Cup semi-final in 2018.     

The Daily Star: ‘Load of auld tosh’

How they reported it: While Gareth Southgate had hoped England’s fans would be cheering on the Three Lions in the rain on Friday, the reality was quite the opposite, the Daily Star highlighted on Saturday morning.

To make matters worse for the manager, ‘Southgate Out’ was trending on Twitter before the game had even started after they saw that Jack Grealish wasn’t in the starting line-up, Paul Brown wrote in the paper.

But despite the Aston Villa player making an appearance in the second half, England struggled against Scotland, a team ‘many expected them to brush aside,’ Brown wrote.

Compared to their performance against the Czech Republic, Brown said that against England – Scotland ‘gave as good as they got at a shocked Wembley’.

The ‘i’: ‘Great Scots’

How they reported it: Like the Daily Mail, the ‘i’ also pointed to the positive – that England need only a point from their final game to guarantee progression. 

However, Kevin Garside of the ‘i’ said that the fixture against Scotland was a chance for England to give themselves a confidence boost for the rest of the tournament.

But instead, Garside wrote, the Three Lions ‘are left to process a night when Scotland, a squad of lesser resource, got more things right than England.’  

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