Sheffield Wednesday: Why Barry Bannan can't wait to face Auld Enemy
Barry Bannan has always taken immense pride in representing his country.
And the Owls midfielder hopes to add to his 24 Scotland caps at Wembley Stadium tomorrow night.
It will be the first time Scotland have faced the Auld Enemy in a competitive fixture since 1999. Scotland triumphed courtesy of a Don Hutchison strike but lost their two-legged European Championship Play-Off tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Bannan, part of the Wednesday team defeated by Hull City at the national stadium in the Championship Play-Off Final last May, admitted: “It will be one of the great moments of my career so far.
“Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to first and foremost play for my country and then against England so it would be great to be involved.”
The 26-year-old, named in the Scots squad alongside club teammate Steven Fletcher, is looking forward to the derby atmosphere of an England versus Scotland duel.
“It is like a derby,” said Bannan, who was a second half sub when the Scots lost at home to England in a friendly nearly two years ago. “It is a massive, massive game for everyone involved.
“I’m glad and proud to have been picked and be involved in it.”
Friday’s encounter will be the 113th meeting between the two nations. England and Scotland have played each other more often than anyone else.
It is an intense rivalry and the Scots are expected to be roared on by around 10,000 supporters against their great rivals.
When asked if Scotland players love nothing more than beating England, Bannan replied: “Definitely. Of course. I think if you said no you would be lying.
“It will be the same for the England boys.
“It is like a derby game and everyone is looking forward to it.”
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England top their World Cup qualifying group, having picked up seven points from three matches. Gareth Southgate’s men are three places and three points better off than the Scots.
After thumping Malta 5-1 away from home, Scotland were held to a disappointing home draw with Lithuania before suffering a 3-0 defeat at Slovakia.
Bannan, who has started all three of the Tartan Army’s qualifiers, said: “We could do with a result but the group is still poised. Everybody is beating each other.
“Our last two results have not been good but anything can happen in this game. It is a derby game and it could go either way.
“Everbody will be looking forward to it and if we get the result we will be there or thereabouts at the top of the group.”
The pressure is mounting on Scots boss Gordon Strachan after last month’s disappointing double-header.
“Pressure comes with being a manager,” stressed Bannan. “If you don’t get the results that everybody wants, then people are quick to jump on you.
“But I think he [Strachan] has done a great job since he has been in there. All the players are firmly behind him and we will be going out there and giving are all for our country, first and foremost, for ourselves and the manager.”
But former Aston Villa trainee Bannan accepts Scotland will have to be on top of their game to pull off an upset.
“England got a good point against Slovenia and I think they have done really well considering the things that have gone on around the squad,” he said. “England are one of the top teams in the world so we know it is going to be a tough game for us.
“We know that but we will go there feeling confident and hopefully we can pick up a positive result.”
It is 18 years and counting since Scotland last qualified for a major tournament and Bannan admits “it would be massive” to help his country end that sequence.
He said: “Scotland are under a bit of pressure at the moment because all of the other home nations have been competing in tournaments and we haven’t.
“I think it is hard to take from the fans perspective when they see the other home nations qualifying.
“We are under a bit of pressure to get there but I think we have a good chance in the group we are in.
“I think this group will go right down to the wire and hopefully we can give ourselves a chance of qualifying.
“It (playing at a World Cup) is a massive ambition of mine and everybody in our squad wants to get there.
“We haven’t had great results so far in the group but we are right in there. We have to focus on the England game and try and get a positive result.”