I want England to win the world cup
(The Herald, May 2010)
I’ve had to listen to Scots going on and on about how the English
keep going on and on about 1966. And all that. Four decades and more
of discontent and ill-will. If Scotland was a law firm, it would be
called Grumble and Haver.
History, of course, has a part in this. Proud Edward’s Army (and
all that). Now, I like The Flower of Scotland: good tune, great for
whistling. But neither we (nor Wallace) actually sent him homeward.
He was in Flanders at the time on other business. Naturally, it did
make him think again. And he thought about it for a few months then
he marched up the road and kicked our teeth in at Falkirk. Granted,
that encounter was a game of two halves: the decisive moment coming
late on with the introduction of Welsh longbowmen (their contribution
equivalent to Beckham’s 92nd minute free kick in the qualifier
against Greece in 2001). I note we have forgiven the Welsh their discourtesy
of 1298. The SNP and Plaid Cymru are now pals. Alex, do you not know
your history? We have not, though, forgiven England it’s malfeasance
down through the centuries. (And as for the parcel of rogues, well,
we don’t want to even open that).
So, here comes the World Cup 2010. And look: “Anyone But England”,
say the hilarious t-shirts. Such sentiment lends power and veracity
to the well-kent quote: “Wha’s like us – Damn few
and they’re a’ embarrassed”.
Ach, say some, it’s just rivalry. What deluded, crow-pecked mind
still believes this? The last time that Scotland was a rival to England
on a football field, Elvis was with us, the internet wasn’t and
a Snickers bar was a Marathon. Here’s a dictionary definition:
“a person, organization, team, etc. that competes with another
for the same object or in the same field.” In that sense, England,
yes, are our rivals. So too are Brazil and Argentina. The Ford Ka is
a rival to the Ferrari F430 and Hussein Bolt gets worried when he sees
Chick Young lacing up trainers.
Some point out, reasonably, that it is the English media and it’s
hyperbole which annoys. So choose different media. Watch foreign coverage
on the internet, mute the sound and play Lady Gaga on your iPod. This
will calm you as you watch 22 millionaires running around a field.
And anyway, had Scotland won the World Cup in 1966, do you think our
media would be less irksome, less smug? (Lisbon Lions, anyone? The 3-2
win over England in ’67, anyone?) There’d be re-runs on
our TV sets every Hogmanay, national holidays on Jim Baxter’s
birthday. Only last year I saw Archie Gemmill’s goal provide the
basis for a contemporary dance piece at The Theatre Royal. Iconic, yes.
Didactic, perhaps. But had this piece been based on Geoff Hurst’s
third goal in the 1966 World Cup final, there would have been people
outside the venue with placards; letters to this newspaper. Fans with
Laptops would cyber-attack the Theatre Royal.
I don’t claim to be non-partisan. (Even if I did, I’d find
it hard to argue my case). Football needs the partisan. Without bias,
we wouldn’t care who wins and football would be like motor sport
or golf. My bias is Scottish - but that that should prompt me to wish
malice on Theo Walcott or Steven Gerrard is simply demented.
Of course, on one level, nobody gives a monkey’s. It’s just
football. Two teams of sweating halfwits who all own forty cars. On
the other hand though, that Wayne Rooney is superb to watch. I’d
happily see him score three in the final and I’d happily see him
rub it right into the wrinkled noses of the muttering hordes of self-righteous
bean-heads who populate this country. And don’t get me started
on the Gaels. Those water-fearing clowns make the ordinary, Central
Belt bigot seem like Nick Clegg. They just won’t let it go. And,
yes, while football should stir the passions, it really shouldn’t
make you clingy.
But as for English hyperbole? And the constant reminders of former glory?
We’re just as bad as them and worse for pretending that we’re
Come on, England!