OF the many weapons in the England armoury as they prepare to march north for their first competitive match on Scottish soil for 18 years, the element of surprise will not be among them. It must remain a bone of contention for those trying to promote the game in this country that just across the border, and streamed daily on to our television screens, there is a league with far wealthier clubs and more glamorous, big-name players. A straw poll of eight-year-old Scottish football fans would probably reveal that they could name more players in the England national set-up than in their own.

Being caught cold by the opposition, then, ought to be one fewer thing for Gordon Strachan and his players to fret over ahead of Saturday’s match at Hampden. Every single member of Gareth Southgate’s squad was registered to an English Premier League in the season just concluded, with only Joe Hart (on loan at Torino) showing sufficient wanderlust to test himself outside the self-styled “greatest league in the world”.

That feeling of familiarity may be a good or bad thing when it comes to Scotland’s preparation for the game – knowing what they are likely to face could either inspire or inhibit them – but Strachan thinks it can only help. He does not have as many players operating in that division and none at all within the top-eight finishers but hinted that those with experience of playing regularly against the likes of Harry Kane, Gary Cahill and Adam Lallana could come into his thinking for this match. That could mean a debut cap for Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser.

"Ryan is feeling good about himself,” Strachan said. “You think, 'wow, he's not scared of anybody'. He's a modern-day footballer, like the Dortmund and Tottenham guys, who close down and pressure people and then play after it. Some can't do that because they don't have the fitness level and when they get the ball back they are tired but he can do both. The days of the old footballers standing about waiting for it have just gone.

"[Having experience of playing against English players] is another thing you take into consideration. I remember the first time I played against the likes of [Kevin] Keegan, and [Trevor] Brooking. I thought, ‘wow, this is a bit different’. Or even when I played Brazil in 1982. These are different animals these, the core strength. The height, everything, the power, we just got blown away.

“It's not a good place to get a surprise, the middle of Hampden. So that's a good point. You do take into consideration who knows these people.”

There will likely be a familiar look about Scotland, too. Barring Fraser’s possible international bow, Strachan gave the impression that he would again shovel as many Celtic players into his starting line-up as possible. Should Kieran Tierney come through unscathed from a medical examination in the morning, that could mean six of Brendan Rodgers’ side featuring, just as they did against Slovenia in March.

"Over that winter period, the Celtic players kicked on to something else as individuals and as a group and we took that into consideration,” admitted Strachan. “When you are picking a side or a squad it's about who is feeling good about themselves and at the top of their game.

“Then you watch them in training and ask yourself what is the best way of doing this. These Celtic guys have grown and grown as the season went on. And when you are on a run like that, you do feel really good about yourself. It’s a bit like when Liverpool were winning everything and these guys came into our squad; [Graeme] Souness, [Kenny] Dalglish, [Alan] Hansen and [Steve] Nicol. They brought that aura.”

One of Strachan’s first tasks when the squad starts to assemble at their Renfrewshire base is to assess their varied levels of fitness, with some having not played since the first week in May.

"There are concerns about five of six from the [English] Championship who didn't make the play-offs. They have been keeping on top of their fitness but it's not the same when you are training on your own or with a fitness coach.

“So when we meet up there will be different degrees of fitness that we will have to deal with in the first 36 hours. What we can't do is make them super-fit in that first 36 hours or push them to the maximum. We have to bring them up to where the guys who finished two weeks ago are because that's never a problem fitness-wise.

"You could put on a friendly but do they really bring you up to speed? Even when you go along to watch it, you know it's different. We try our best to be professional but it's different from that edge you get.”

The 3-0 defeat in the reverse match at Wembley in November would not be the most obvious reference point from which to collect positives but Strachan felt it was a scoreline that did not reflect the flow of the game.

“I thought we stood up against them and never allowed them to play or do what they wanted to do. Craig Gordon didn’t have a real good save to make and I would take that again. To keep them down to three attempts on target….those goals were exceptional, especially the second and third ones. The first one was unfortunate as Grant Hanley was lying on the ground when the ball came in and it could have gone anywhere. The game wasn’t a problem until that point.

“When it went to 2-0 you just thought about the players. You thought ‘this is not right’ because of all the hard work they had done to make sure England wouldn’t have chances and then they score two goals with two headers.

“Our unit defending was good but there gets to a point where individual defending comes into it and you have to sort things out as an individual. We created as many chances as England but the final pass makes a big difference. That’s up to us to improve.”