Watching the England national team walk out for a friendly at Celtic Park was somewhat akin to watching a matador walk into the arena to see the bull he had been fighting for years.

You knew the matador had beaten the bull before, but that didn’t make you any less afraid that he would come out this time with fresh scars.

In modern times the footballing rivalry between England and Scotland has lost its lustre for the English.

That doesn’t mean that the idea of an England defeat on Scottish soil was deemed as anything less than unacceptable.

Gone are the days of 1961 where England recorded a 9-3 win at Wembley, a performance so appalling to the Scots that the goalkeeper on the day Frank Haffey allegedly emigrated to Australia because of it.

However, the England players showed a desire that was lacking in their World Cup games over the summer especially for the occasion.

Any worry that the Scots had lost their appetite for victory over the English was dispelled immediately.

A mixture of boos directed at God Save the Queen and a raucous rendition of Flower of Scotland show that the rivalry is most certainly alive and well.

The Scots had waited 14 years before 2013 to face the English again and defeat in London could only have spurred them on.

National pride was at stakes and considering the recent political atmosphere, it was no surprise that the 3-1 loss was dogged and determined despite any tiredness from Saturday’s fixtures.

Statistically, the English and Scottish are equally matched with England possessing 47 victories to Scotland’s 41.

However this only tells half the story, whilst England are qualifying for tournaments with relative ease, Scotland have struggled for the better part of two decades to reach a grand stage.

So it’s not hard to imagine that given their neighbours to the south a bloody nose would have been symbolic of Scotland’s return to quality and truly announced their return.

England led by Hodgson and Rooney dominated the day and for all the talk of the match being a friendly, the elation from the players and fans in Celtic Park showed that the oldest fixture in the footballing world still mattered to them.

Enough even to make this dubious England fan celebrate a friendly victory like a tournament win.

By Steven Wheeler

Featured image: Brent Flanders; via Flickr