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Archive - Friday, 12 November 1999
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Southgate plans a party
GARETH Southgate is convinced England will give his daughter a birthday present to remember with victory over Scotland in the Euro 2000 play-offs.
The England defender from Crawley is in the squad for the two-leg play-off against the Auld Enemy at Hampden Park tomorrow and Wembley next Wednesday.
Southgate, a former Hazelwick schoolboy, predicts Kevin Keegan's men will silence the famous Hampden roar and complete the job just 24 hours after little Mia turns one.
"I believe I'll be enjoying that double celebration," said the 29-year-old veteran of Euro 96 and last year's World Cup finals.
The Aston Villa defender, who has Sussex pair Gareth Barry and Michael Standing as club-mates, feels England have enough experience, class and match-winners to make sure of their place in next year's European Championship finals.
"It's going to be very tight. We're expected to win over the two games but we all know it's going to be tough because of who the opposition is.
"Yet I believe we will win. It's the nature of professional sport that if you don't think you're going to win, there's no point in turning up.
"We've got an opportunity to get through to the finals by the back door and we are not going to waste it.
"We've got an experienced squad who are used to playing in these kind of matches.
"It's a big game because it's the next one in front of us. But there have been just as big games in the past like the 1997 World Cup qualifier in Italy and the Manchester United lads have played in the European Cup final."
He believes England have enough class players to overcome the lack of 'a Paul Gascoigne' in midfield against Scotland.
"Players like Gazza only come along once in a blue moon. You're talking about a truly world class player but we've got players of that calibre, it's just they're different types of players, like David Beckham. He is without question a world class player and just as dangerous and effective.
"We've got players like Paul Ince, who is playing particularly well at the moment, back in the fold and very keen to prove his worth. And Paul Scholes has proved himself for England plenty of times."
Pundit Jimmy Hill, who lives in Hurstpierpoint, feels England will not win anything without a Gazza.
But Southgate said: "Only time will tell, but we had opportunities to win with Gazza in '96 and there's only been one tournament since. It's not always the case that teams have that type of player. You've got to have a sides that are brimful of world class players to win an international tournament."
Southgate feels Scotland are solid defensively, but insists England are too.
"There's lots of experience with Tony Adams and Martin Keown and Sol Campbell have performed well on a world stage, while I've gone through quite a bit too."
But Southgate feels it is upfront where England have the edge.
"We've got strength in depth with our strikers and that's the position your potential match-winners come from. There's Alan (Shearer), Andy (Cole) and Kevin (Phillips) all in a rich vein of scoring form and with Michael Owen coming back from injury. That's a collection a lot of managers would give a lot to have."
Southgate is delighted Shearer is through a sticky patch.
"He got a lot of stick earlier in the season. That's the nature of being in a high-profile sports figure in this country. Things weren't right for him at Newcastle (during Ruud Gullit's reign) and when the camp's not happy players don't produce their form."
Southgate feel the presence of Keegan is also a plus.
"He's a smashing man, very approachable and it is a very relaxed camp with the players enjoying working with him."
The Auld Enemy Factor brings its psychological twists and turns.
"It seems the Scots dislike us more than the other way around but the most important thing about these two matches is that we qualify. There's no question of there being more desire on one side or the othe.
"I've had some friendly banter with my my Scottish club-mate Colin Calderwood but everyone's conscious during the build up not to wind the other side up too much.
"I don't think our victory over Scotland in Euro '96 will have any bearing. That was a one-off. There's been a large turn around in the teams since then, but psychologically it's good for us that we won last time.The teams know each other so well so there's going to be no fear on either side."
He doesn't anticipate an over-nervous, negative England dressing room at Hampden because it will be packed with strong characters and world class performers who have been there, done it and got the T-shirt.
And he revealed England will be going for victory rather than playing for a draw in the away leg.
"Neither side's going to want to concede too many because they'll be out of it if they do, but away goals count double so it would be of benefit to us to get one at Hampden.
"We're going up there to win and leave ourselves in a very strong position.
"I've never played at Hampden before and it's going to be an intimidating atmosphere.
"I'm not sure if being at home will be much of an advantage for either side. They'll be familiar with their surroundings and have extra support at Hampden but it'll be the same as playing away in a big derby game in the Premier for both legs. "
Tomorrow the talking finally stops and Southgate can't wait. He badly wants to give his daughter that birthday present.
"The attention on this game is wildly out of proportion but I don't want to be on holiday next summer while the finals are taking place. I'm really looking forward to us getting through."
And if it means taking another penalty after his infamous penalty shoot out miss in the Euro 96 semi-finals against Germany at Wembley for England to make it, then so be it.
"I d never shirk it if I was asked."
England, and possibly Mia, expects.
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