By Mike Collett
England ended their year on a high when they chalked up a sixth successive win with a 3-1 friendly victory over Scotland on Tuesday night but coach Roy Hodgson says he expects even better as they approach Euro 2016.
England have won their opening four qualifiers in Group E and barring a stunning collapse will qualify for the 24-team finals in France 18 months’ time.
Although their performances have not always been mesmerizing their results have been excellent and Hodgson’s team now bears little resemblance to the one that endured a winless, dismal World Cup in Brazil five months ago.
Youngsters like right-back Nathaniel Clyne of Southampton, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal, who scored the opening goal on Tuesday, and Luke Shaw of Manchester United, all showed refreshing drive and determination.
Skipper Wayne Rooney was outstanding with two more goals, taking his total to 46 for England, and he needs just four more to become the first Englishman to score 50 and eclipse Bobby Charlton’s 49-goal record which has stood for nearly 45 years.
Hodgson said after the game: “We know that in France we’ll have to be every bit as good as this, if not better.
“We can get better, not least because so many players are so young. By France 2016 they will have so many more football matches under their belts.”
Matches between Scotland and England – an annual fixture from 1872 until 1989 – are always feisty affairs and Tuesday’s maintained that legacy at Celtic Park.
Both Hodgson and Rooney hinted they would welcome the fixture returning on a regular basis, though Hodgson said the international calendar was so tight it might not be possible for it to become an annual fixture.
The teams also met at Wembley last year with England winning 3-2.
The only unsavoury note was the sound of England supporters singing anti-IRA songs, with FA officials telling the England supporters band at half-time to stop accompanying the songs.
Hodgson said he was not aware of the chants but after he was told what they were, he said: “No one in football can condone what they were chanting.
“If anyone was offended by it I am sure the FA would like to apologise for it but all we can do is play our football and be grateful for the support.
“Hopefully they will all behave themselves and not put themselves into a situation where their chanting is being criticised.”