by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So England are destined to win the Euros, and that is, apparently, good for the UK. I’ve seen several English people put forward this point of view, and it is always linked to a failure to comprehend why Scots and Welsh football supporters won’t back England. They claim, and I suspect they are genuine when they say it, that they would support Scotland or Wales if those teams were in similar positions. That being so, why won’t we support their team?

Now, there are a couple of levels to this. When watching football as a neutral, I tend to offer my support to the team playing the best football. That, however, does not usually extend to my team’s rivals. So, as a Scottish supporter, why would I support England? In football terms, it just isn’t done. The very best any football team can expect from supporters of their rivals is a sort of grudging respect. They certainly shouldn’t expect celebrations of their achievements, no matter how impressive they might be.

So why do so many England supporters express a desire to see Scotland and Wales do so well? Is it really all down to being friendly neighbours? Why doesn’t football rivalry impinge on their thinking at all?

I’ve seen a few comments on this topic recently, and I have to agree with those who have put forward the view that it comes down to the whole England = Britain = UK mind set which is so prevalent among many in England. It is not their fault, of course, because this is what they are taught to believe, but far too many of them seem to regard Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as subordinate regions of the UK, and therefore subordinate to England. This is, of course, precisely the position in political terms, but not in cultural terms, yet that is what these UK supporters seem to think.

Someone (whose name I am afraid I cannot recall) summed this up very nicely on Twitter recently. I’m not sure of the precise wording, but it was along the lines that, in order to be more British, we always seem to be required to become less Scottish, but never less English.

True Brits (and there are admittedly many Scots who fall into this category) seem to regard Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as quaint anomalies in the football world, being little more than UK B teams rather than national teams in their own right.

The one comfort I take from the England team’s inevitable success at Euro 2020 is that the stark difference between the nations of the UK will become ever more apparent. After all, Boris Johnson didn’t even know Wales were in the competition when asked about it at the outset, and all the focus of the Westminster Government seems to be on riding the coat tails of the England football team’s success. If England win, you can pretty much guarantee that it will be touted as a Brexit success, just as you can be sure that voters will be reminded that England won under Boris Johnson’s Government.

But while I’m moaning about the UK Government, and bemoaning the success of a rival football team, I should put it on record that I think Gareth Southgate has expressed some wonderful humanitarian opinions. He is a fine leader, and a very fine human being, and the same can be said for his team. After all, Marcus Rashford has shamed the UK Government into adopting more humanitarian policies, and the team’s insistence on supporting the BLM sentiment by taking the knee in the face of hostility from their own fans and their own Government is to be applauded. They have set an excellent example which I hope will resonate with the majority of their fans. I’m not entirely convinced this is how it will work out, and that would be a great shame for the England squad. Sadly, the nation they represent seems to hold very different values to the team themselves. Hopefully, their example will help alter people’s outlook.

But, much as I admire them as people, and much as I know they are a very talented football team, that doesn’t mean I won’t be cheering on Italy on Sunday. That’s got nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with football rivalry.