Saturday 7 December 2019

Video: Wayne Rooney warns that Celtic Park clash will be inspiring and intimidating

Sam Wallace

Wayne Rooney said today that he has told England’s young players to expect a hostile atmosphere at Celtic Park, when the national team face Scotland in a friendly north of the border for the first time in more than 25 years.

The England captain said that his experience of playing in two Champions League away games against Celtic, as well as attending home games at the stadium, had taught him to be prepared for the noise and fervour of the home crowd.

Rooney said: “I’ve played up here a few times, and you know the start of the game, their fans will be really up for it. It will be quite intimidating if you’re not used to it, so I have spoken to them to make sure they’re ready for it to get them settled. Not to anyone in particular. Just to the younger ones in general.

“Everyone knows this stadium, the fans here have a great reputation of making it an intimidating place to come. It was when I first came out here to play, so I wanted to pass on my experience. It is inspiring and intimidating. I was a young lad. It was a great atmosphere before the game as you came out. It’s a stadium with a particular atmosphere you want to experience as a player.

Like his manager, Roy Hodgson, Rooney said that the intensity of the rivalry between the two countries did not mean as much to the latest generation of players. More than half Hodgson’s current squad were born after the abolition of the traditional annual England-Scotland friendly, the last of which was played in 1989.

Rooney said: “The history between England and Scotland is different. [A place like] Istanbul is more aggressive. This has more of a football feel to it. Footballing intimidating. We’ve worked on stuff which we know we want to do. The manager will give us more instructions on the game, and it’s down to us to put them into practice on the pitch. If there are drastic changes, we’ll be up for it.”

 “We have to play the game within the rules. I don’t think it’ll be like the games 20 years ago. It’ll be a football game. There will be an edge to it, but that’s what you expect from this kind of fixture. You have to be ready for the start of the game. I’m sure we  will be.”

Hodgson told his players the team last night, with some changes inevitable from Saturday’s team that beat Slovenia. Fraser Forster is expected to start in goal, with Joe Hart having been given the rest of the international week off. Chris Smalling may well come into defence in place of Phil Jagielka. The likes of Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Stewart Downing are all under consideration for a starting place too.

Hodgson said he was not under any pressure from Premier League managers to limit the match time of his players, including Rooney. “I’ve not been asked by any manager to, so-called, spare his players. Which I appreciate. That’s good of course because, when that happens, it puts you in a difficult situation. When you agree to spare one guy’s players, you put yourself in a difficult situation because you’re not sparing anyone else’s. So that’s good.”

The England manager said that he would continue with the diamond formation that has been in favour of late, following the 2-0 success against Switzerland, but that his players were not wedded to that system.

“There aren’t huge differences in the formations we employ. The players could adapt easily at half-time on Saturday. We’re working to make sure we understand the principles and what we’re looking for at any given time or moment. It’s very important we don’t get bedded down ... it can’t become like Animal Farm: ‘Diamond good, other formations not good’. We have to use our players to the best advantage. That’s what we’ll try and do [tonight].”

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