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Ex-England captain names ‘colossus’ players that rattled Scotland



Former England captain Phil Thompson has named the two hard men he remembers most for striking fear into the opposition. More specifically, the two terrors in question helped turn the tide against Scotland at a time when the ‘Auld Enemy’ was far less dominant.

Having first met on the football field in 1872, England’s first true period of superiority in the fixture didn’t begin until after the Second World War. But by the time Thompson made his Three Lions debut in 1976, Scotland were threatening to revolt against their southern rivals once more.

The former  defender played alongside (and against) a raft of iconic characters throughout his career. However, two in particular top the billing when Thompson talks about hard men and leader figures he revered as a player. When pressed on the matter by former Soccer Saturday colleague Jeff Stelling, he didn’t hesitate to pick out the names of Terry Butcher and Paul Mariner to the Football’s Greatest host. And he recalled one trip to Hampden Park where he couldn’t help but feel inspired by their steely-eyed focus before kick-off.

“These two are jumping up, nearly heading to the ceiling, and going, ‘Come on!’ And I’m going [petrified look] like that,” he recalled. “I’m going into battle! Because that’s what this was, England [versus] Scotland.

“And I’m looking at Terry and Marrers jumping, and I’m going, ‘Phwoar, let’s go.’ They [Scotland] must have been looking at some of those players – even [Graeme] Souness and [Kenny] Dalglish – going, ‘Oh my goodness. What are they doing? This is not normally the way!'”

The game Thompson referred to was a 1982 trip to Glasgow, given that was the only Scotland fixture in which he, Mariner and an emerging Butcher all featured. And it just so happened Ipswich Town legend Mariner scored the only goal of the game to make it three straight wins at Hampden for the English.

It would also prove to be Thompson’s last visit to the ground as a player as he retired from England duties later that year. But not before racking up 42 caps and captaining his country on six occasions.

Butcher was still only at the beginning of his international career when he made that maiden journey to Hampden Park in 1982. However, he went on to become one of England’s most capped defenders after retiring with 77 to his credit.

Thompson also picked out former Liverpool team-mates like Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes as other examples of those he revered around the pitch. Both were already well-established in the line-up by the time he emerged from the academy and commanded respect from those around them.

Gareth Southgate’s current England crop could perhaps use a touch of Butcher’s iconic hardman mentality as they jet off to Germany for Euro 2024 this summer. That’s particularly the case considering the Three Lions could face off against Scotland in the knockout stages.

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