THE tunnel at Hampden isn't as austere and forbidding as the one at the old Wembley, the walk to the halfway line not so long. But it is nice to imagine that the thoughts coursing through the brains of the Scotland players won't be too far removed from the recollections of Danny McGrain this week.

"You'd look across at the England players and, especially the guys you'd be up against, and think 'I'm going to f****** sort you out'," said McGrain. "You'd try and signal to it to them, but they probably wouldn't have understood me if I'd talked to them."

McGrain went into battle eight times against the Auld Enemy, winning half of them. There were two wins at Hampden (a 2-0 win in 1974, and a 2-0 Ray Clemence assisted victory in 1976) and two more at Wembley (the 2-1 win in 1977 where the goalposts were broken, and a 1-0 win in 1981) balanced by four defeats, the nadir being the 5-1 rout at Wembley in 1975.

"None of us were worried about England, I'd say it was more wary," he recalled. "You're talking about a big name England team that was always on TV, their players were household names. It did get annoying how often they'd be on telly. I haven't got the intelligence to properly describe the feeling of beating England. But you feel you're fighting the big guy and we're the wee guys."

Catching up with McGrain this week seems particularly apposite considering how central his young protege Kieran Tierney, who is likely to shrug off any concerns about his facial injury to debut his new mouthguard on the right flank, will be to the action. It is a role, to accommodate Andy Robertson on the left, which may or may not bring him into close contact with Raheem Sterling, but then Tierney already has gone toe-to-toe with Manchester City'S £50m man as Celtic drew 3-3 against Pep Guaridola's outfit in the Champions League in September and lived to tell the tale. While Sterling scored on the night, a thrust from Tierney also forced Sterling into an own goal. And to see the young Celtic player work so methodically on improving his wrong foot has brought it all back for McGrain, who often found himself shunted onto the left side for Scotland to accommodate Sandy Jardine.

"I could easily say it was p*** easy but it wasn't because I had no left foot," said McGrain. "My left foot was null and void. So I had to work hard on it. When you hit the ball with your left foot, your right hand comes up here [chest height] and this keeps your balance. So I was hitting a ball off a wall, or maybe training with somebody, telling my brain what to do. It could have taken two weeks or six months until I wasn't even thinking about it.

"Of course it made me a better player," he added. "A two-footed full back? There wasn't many of us about, maybe only Tommy Gemmell! Did I explain this to Kieran? No, he has enough people in the first team squad, the coaching staff, telling him what to do. Kieran is a throwback. He is only 20 and is such a good player and such a nice guy. He's both one for now and for the future. He really is a tremendous player."

Having said all this McGrain knows that Tierney will be tested to the full on Saturday evening, and he personally would sign right now for a draw. "I think he will be asked questions, I think every player in the Scotland team will have questions asked of them," said McGrain. "But hopefully we are good enough to ask them questions too. I don't know if they feel they are superior, no-one knows how England feel. They are always over-hyped, but sometimes we are overhyped too in Scotland. I think they are a good team but are they one of the best teams in the world? I don't think so.

"I would take a good draw now," he added. "He [Kieran] has played against Raheem already against Man City and at times he was brilliant, sometimes you get that. Just as long as he doesn't score. I remember I played against Jesper Olsen [against Ajax] in 1982, when big Billy [McNeill] was the manager. You would have thought big Billy would have told me about him but I just went on the park and this wee guy just flew by me. He scores a goal within three minutes and I am thinking 'oh f***, cheers Billy', looking at the dugout and thinking what am I supposed to do. Jan Molby was hitting the ball inside me, over me. But it was 2-2 at Parkhead and we beat them over at Ajax 2-1. I either kicked him early or threatened him but I must have knocked the stuffing out of him because he never went by me like that again."