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Derby Day: England v Scotland Feels More Teeside Than Tyneside

When two of the home nations clash this evening at Wembley Stadium it should be a joyous, boisterous occasion - but not for some disenfranchised Englishmen, who are clinging on by a string to their interest in international football.

Whilst Sunderland supporters would much prefer for our team to be competing regularly in cup finals and at the top of the Premier League table, our place in the game just isn't within that elite right now and, bar the odd flirtation with success in recent years, we're largely left scrapping for survival each year with other similarly sized clubs in the lower reaches of the top flight.

I needn't tell any of you about the importance of the Wear-Tyne derby games, though. Those are always a big deal, always have a huge impact on our lives and are always, win lose or draw, something that we look forward to. Derby games are the lifeblood of being a Sunderland supporter.

And this year, with our beloved neighbours languishing just below us in the Championship, we've really had nothing to fill that void. When Middlesbrough came into town in August it barely registered with me and, barring a freak cup draw against the mags in the new year, we'll likely not face them until we both end up in the same division as one another again.

The feeling I got in the build up to that Middlesbrough game was very similar to the one I'm feeling right now when anticipating the England versus Scotland game this evening at Wembley.

As much as I really want to become wholly invested and engrossed by it, it just isn't happening. The damage caused by England's failings in France in the summer is still felt by many who were hurting from yet another missed opportunity by a team who really should have achieved so much more in international tournaments. Beside that, Sunderland supporters were forced to sit back and watch as the FA tapped up our manager only months ago. To say our relationship with the national side was trodden all over this summer, almost to the point of no return, would be somewhat of an understatement.

Yet, this shouldn't be the case, not if you are a die-hard football fan. Traditionally, England versus Scotland games have been some of the most passionate and enthralling fixtures in world football. Going back decades, whenever the two sides have met it has been about who has the heart and and desire and the will to win against the other. Memories of Gazza in 1996 are still fresh in the memory of many, whilst more recently a 3-2 win for England at Wembley back in 2013 having came from behind twice rekindled the lust for more regular meetings between the two. The first ever official game of international football was played between the two countries in 1872. It's a tie that is steeped in history.

And the rivalry transcends Football. Politics, pop culture - everything. They're the ol' enemy. We, as English folk, should care more about how we play this evening against a side that are, historically, our greatest rivals. But, many don't. Or they at least claim that they don't.

That doesn't mean that things can't change somewhat this evening. This is a new era for England. Gareth Southgate, the England manager, played in that famous win over Craig Brown's Scotland in 1996 and knows more than most how iconic that victory became due to the manner of the performance and, mainly, the second goal scored by Paul Gascoigne, then of Glasgow Rangers.

It's an interesting time for the national side. Since limping out of the European Championships in the summer there have been constant questions over the heart and desire of the players afforded the chance to wear the shirt. The pressure that comes with being an England player is perhaps like no other - even in victory their performances and commitment is constantly scrutinised.

Scotland are no longer the force they once were, as shown by the fact that Scott Brown - a below average, plodding central midfield player on a good day - has removed himself from his self-imposed international retirement only to walk straight into Gordon Strachan's side this evening. England should - SHOULD - have too much for Scotland, though they should have had too much for Iceland too, and look how that turned out.

The pressure of having around 14,000 Scottish fans in attendance could be enough to break a mentally fragile England side, even on their own home turf. They'll travel to the capital in their droves this evening - some without tickets - and will do everything to ensure that their voices are heard in the stands. That is intimidating, and can create anxiousness, which can cause mistakes.

I, like many others, want to reconnect with our national side. If England win convincingly, it could very well set them on a path to recapturing the enthusiasm of the nation with Gareth Southgate at the helm. Maybe.

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