IT takes something out of the ordinary to overshadow a Scotland-England football match.

Particularly when it is the first meeting between the Auld Enemy in this country since that famous Euro 2000 play-off in November 1999 and it comes so soon after the historic referendum on independence. But judging by the enquiries Gordon Strachan has fielded since that battling point in Warsaw on Tuesday night, the clash against our Celtic cousins which occurs four days before it, has managed that all right.

In terms of strategic and symbolic importance to both nations, there will be nothing remotely ordinary about events at Celtic Park on November 14, when Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane bring their Republic of Ireland side to their old stomping ground in the latest red- letter day in the most intriguing Scotland qualifying group for years.

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Strachan jetted directly to his home in La Manga after the match against Poland for some badly-needed rest and recuperation over the next week or so, but his chances of truly taking his mind off a match of such magnitude seem remote.

"It definitely has over-shadowed it," the Scotland manager said. "More people are talking to me about the Republic game than the England game, that's for sure. In fact I've had English people on looking for tickets, so neutrals want to be there from all around the world. They're looking forward to the game and the occasion. It's a big game. But, because of the performances we've both put in, it's one we're looking forward to."

Strachan enacted a smooth handover with O'Neill when he inherited the Celtic job from the Northern Irishman in the summer of 2005, and the friendship between them was only strengthened this summer when sharing ITV punditry duties at the World Cup in Brazil. The pair are different, albeit equally idiosyncratic, characters but both have worked miracles in Group D and Strachan feels they share an old-school approach to the game.

"Martin is a happy eccentric and I enjoy his company," Strachan said. "I spent a lot of time with him in Brazil. We always ended up at the same table. There's nothing complicated about his football talk. We use our eyes, rather than stats. Are players fatigued or not fatigued? We're old-fashioned, but there's nothing wrong with that. Sir Alex Ferguson did the same things and it didn't do him any harm."

With another intriguing factor the involvement of Keane - who joked in his new book that he signed for Celtic to spite Strachan, who had seemed nonplussed about bringing him to Parkhead - the match in the East End contains enough spice without the addition of two Irishmen who will be playing away from home in their native Glasgow.

While Republic of Ireland talisman Robbie Keane also spent six months at Celtic Park, it is galling for the Tartan Army that arguably that nation's two most effective players these days seem to be Everton duo Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy. Strachan has a long and complicated history with McGeady, at first making him a mainstay of his Celtic team only for the relationship to become strained amid a series of dressing-room disagreements. He also tried to sign the teenage McCarthy from Hamilton Academical, only for Celtic to be priced out of a deal by Wigan Athletic. This pair of prodigal sons have it in their power to puncture Scotland's feelgood factor for good, but in the form of Ikechi Anya, Shaun Maloney and Steven Naismith, Strachan is entitled to feel content with their de facto replacements.

"They are two terrific players both playing at a great club, but they're not there so that's it," said Strachan. "They are two lads who have got the most out of their own ability. Aiden trained hard and was always in the gym so he's getting what he deserves. McCarthy is the same.

"Those two have determined their future. Aiden did a great job for me at Celtic. He could always win games, he worked hard defensively and he got [Ireland] three points in Georgia. He has started the season well. McCarthy is a lad I've known for a long, long time. But if they left spaces in our squad, I think we've filled them up nicely."

IT won't just be the meeting with the Auld Enemy which this match has the potential to overshadow. Victory against the Irish has the capacity to eclipse all of Strachan's finest Parkhead moments, from Shunsuke Nakamura's free-kick against Manchester United in 2006 which took Celtic through to the last 16 of the Champions League, to victory against AC Milan which helped lead them back there a year later, and Strachan's own favourite, the defeat of Spartak Moscow on penalties which booked the place in the group stage that year.

"The best night was Spartak Moscow - that game had everything," Strachan said. "There's a picture of Tommy Burns flying through the air into a huddle of boys celebrating. I'll always remember that. But I couldn't tell you until it happens, just like I couldn't have said what it was like to beat Rangers or Manchester United. Sometimes you just go 'thank goodness that's over'. Others you enjoy more. You never know until the game's over. But it is probably the most eagerly awaited game either nation - or even in British terms - has had for a long, long time at international level."

Whilst there has been admirable consistency in his team's performances, Strachan is entitled to feel miffed by a haul of just four points from three games. His best guess as to why Germany have confounded expectations by taking just one point from their games against Poland and the Republic of Ireland, is a "World Cup hangover", the same ailment which seems to have afflicted Spain and the Netherlands. The unpredictability of it all could mean that Group D will still be all to play for by the time Scotland travel to Faro, Portugal, to take on Gibraltar in their final game.

"No-one would have tipped the other results," he said. "Then you look at England's group and it's practically a walkover. I was speaking to people who were saying the group is no good to anyone - England, the other teams and definitely not the television companies - because it's very hard to try to work up enthusiasm for something that's already a foregone conclusion. Roy Hodgson might not agree with that but it's the way everyone else in football is thinking."

Strachan is adjusting to the slow, slow, frantic, slow pattern of international management and his down time in Spain this week has been hard earned. He can always keep up to date with his players performances via internet scouting tool Wyscout in any case.

"I'm not really on holiday," he said. "I live here in Spain. I do the same work, with the same computer. I've had 11 or 12 full-on days. It's more full-on than being a club manager when you meet up for international duty, especially when it comes to the turnover of one game to another. It's 8am in the morning until 12 at night. It's meetings, training, talking. So I came away to de-stress. It's what I do. I went for a power-walk, for example, just to get away from football."

He can walk as far as he wants but soon all roads will be leading to Parkhead.