Time to step up

Barry Bannan believes playing England at Wembley is just the right occasion for Scotland to get their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign back on track.

Last month’s 1-1 home draw with Lithuania and the 3-0 defeat in Slovakia left Gordon Strachan’s side with just four points from their first three Group F fixtures.

The 26-year-old Sheffield Wednesday playmaker knows the importance of three points on Friday night against the Auld Enemy in their bid to reach Russia and for that he claims the famous fixture is ideal.

“Obviously we’re disappointed with the last two results that we had and we want to do a bit better,” he said.

“This is a massive game against our rivals so it’s one of the best games to go and show what we actually can do.

“It would be a massive boost to get a good result there, it would push us up in the group as well so it would be a really good result if we could get it.

“It’s one that I’m looking forward to and can’t wait for it.

“This is one of the biggest arenas in world football, against one of your biggest rivals as well.

“Growing up as a kid first and foremost you want to play for your country – that’s one of your aims – but to play against England? It doesn’t come much bigger.”

However, despite the pressure on Scotland to get the three points, Bannan does not consider the match to be win-or-bust.

The former Aston Villa and Crystal Palace player said: “Definitely not. Don’t get me wrong it’s a massive game but I think this group’s already thrown up some surprise results.

“It’s going to be a group that goes down to the wire. We’ve got four games next year that are all at Hampden which will be a big bonus for us.”

Despite England’s poor performance at Euro 2016 and their recent managerial controversy where Sam Allardyce has been replaced in the interim by Gareth Southgate, Bannan believes the hosts are still a force to be reckoned with.

He said: “They’re a great football team, there’s no getting away from that.

“I don’t think they’ve lost a game in qualification for a while now so they are a top, top team so we’ll respect them but we’ll also be confident of going there and getting a result so it’s about finding that in-between, where you respect them but don’t respect them too much where you sit back in awe.”

Bannan voiced his approval of Celtic captain Scott Brown’s decision to return from retirement and insists his fellow midfielder is the exact type of player needed for such a high-profile game.

He said: “He’s a massive player; he’s been brilliant for this country.

“He’s been brilliant for Celtic in the Champions League in big games, so he’s a big game player and he’ll be a massive boost for this squad.

“You need experience going into games like this and he’s got a lot of it so it’ll be a major boost for the squad and a great lift for us.”

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