The Scotland defender Stephen O’Donnell has revealed the novel way in which he prevented Jack Grealish from having a match-winning impact for England at Wembley on Friday night. Upon advice from Grealish’s Aston Villa teammate John McGinn, O’Donnell killed the England substitute with kindness.
O’Donnell has been widely praised for his display in the goalless draw, with the Scotland manager, Steve Clarke, branding the Motherwell full-back “exceptional”.
Grealish’s 63rd-minute introduction was designed to break the deadlock but Scotland stood strong. O’Donnell has shed some light on some of the method behind that.
“By that stage of the game I was starting to get a wee bit fed up,” said O’Donnell, specifically in regards to the booking he received for a robust challenge on Grealish. “He was starting to play, he had just come on and was nice and fresh,” the defender told the Scotland team’s YouTube channel.
“Normally, fresh wingers come on and you feel a bit tired. I just thought: ‘I am going to need to hit him here.’ I was fed up of him trying to take the mickey out of me. I gave him a wee hit.
“Thankfully, John McGinn had given me some tips. He told me that if he comes on I need to get nibbling in his ear but don’t be critical, be complimentary. So the second he came on I was telling him how good looking he was, that I loved his calves and asking him how he got his hair to look like that. I was told if you kick him or get him really hard he gets back up and at you. Maybe that was the best way to get at Jack Grealish the other night.”
There is quiet confidence within the Scottish camp before the visit of Croatia to Hampden Park on Tuesday. A Scotland win should be enough to earn a last-16 berth, the vagaries of other groups notwithstanding.
“We went to Wembley needing to stay in the competition. We managed to,” O’Donnell said. “The performance was very good but the most important thing at this level is the result. To get the draw that gave us the opportunity to go into Tuesday to qualify was massive. There is relief we are still in this and there is more belief.
“We believe we are a very good side and we have good players in the team. Hopefully it will give us even more confidence to get one over on Croatia.”
Lyndon Dykes, who played as a lone striker in the defeat to the Czech Republic and alongside Che Adams in the Wembley draw, is confident the Scots can break their Euros scoring drought against Croatia.
“We’ve got goals in this team, 100%,” Dykes said. “We’ve just been unlucky in the last couple of games. Keepers are making good saves, the ball just hasn’t fallen where sometimes it would fall. The manager’s not worrying about it, none of us are worrying about it. The goals will come.”
One noticeable aspect of Scotland’s two fixtures thus far has been the willingness of every player to sing the national anthem. This marks a departure from even recent Scotland games. Dykes, who was born in Australia, has explained how the Flower of Scotland message was delivered by the captain, Andy Robertson.
“We are at the Euros and haven’t been here for so long,” Dykes said. “We are all proud that we are here, especially with the crowd there as well. It is just a proud moment. The last two games showed that, because we were all belting it out beforehand. Robbo mentioned it a couple of times; make sure we go and show everyone what it means to us. We went out there and we did.”