Fay draws on rivalry but won't let Scotland lose focus

18 July 2017 07:23

Captain Gemma Fay insists an innate sporting hostility towards England has prepared Scotland perfectly for Wednesday's high-stakes clash with England in Utrecht.

The 200-cap goalkeeper laughed off the revelation that England Women had watched clips of Braveheart, the Hollywood interpretation of the life of Scottish knight William Wallace, as part of a history lesson in the build-up to both teams' European Championship opener.

And the Perth-born 35-year-old said the Scots would be raring to get at Mark Sampson's World Cup bronze medallists, admitting she has never played a more important match.

Fay said: "I don't think we need a history lesson in any sort of English culture. It'd be interesting to see their reaction to Mel Gibson's accent in Braveheart - it's a bit dodgy.

"When you're born in Scotland, you're born into the Scotland-England rivalry in sport. You all know about it, be it football, rugby or whatever.

"We know the rivalry, it's one that excites us, but it's not going to overshadow what we're here to do, which is to go out and look to win this opening game at the European Championship."

Fay, who made her Scotland debut as a 16-year-old, added: "It's the biggest game of my career, and probably the most exciting as well."

Scotland are making their first appearance at a major overseas finals, in what is Anna Signeul's sign-off tournament as head coach.

Swedish boss Signeul is departing after 12 years to become boss of Finland, and in her time at the helm has become indoctrinated in the Scottish lifestyle.

She was glad to learn First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is coming to Holland for the occasion, and Signeul said: "I'm as proud to hear the Scotland national anthem as I am to hear the Swedish.

"That will be a big moment for me, to see the flag and hear the anthem.

"I do think we go out as underdogs tomorrow, that's for sure. But it doesn't mean we don't have expectations of us. We do have that. We have expectations to go out and give a good performance.

"That's what we're focusing on and seeing how far that can take us."

She relishes the rivalry, pointing to similar at home in Sweden, including the footballing antipathy towards Norway.

"I think it makes it more exciting. I think that the biggest thing is to try to enjoy it, try to embrace the experience, and that's been the message since we've qualified," Signeul said.

"If you get too nervous it can be hard to enjoy the moment, but we should just embrace it. It's very few people who get the opportunity to represent your country."

Erin Cuthbert, the Chelsea midfielder, is Scotland's youngest player and turns 19 on game day.

"We'll eat a cake, which we seldom do nowadays - but that's not until after the game," Signeul said.

"It's also Nicola Sturgeon's birthday and she will also come to the game. We're very proud of that, that the First Minister is coming."

At the age of 56, Signeul has lived her life in and around football.

The England game will be an occasion that stands out, and that will particularly prove the case for Signeul if her team cause an upset and beat a side who have one eye on the trophy.

It would be her biggest victory, Signeul agreed.

"I think that would definitely be the case," she said. "I've had a fantastic career as a coach and I'm very proud of it. I feel half-Scottish and it will be a proud moment."

Source: PA