3 June ~ Should Scotland fans support England? That question has become a tedious by-product of the national team's recent inability to qualify for major tournaments. In the build-up to Germany 2006 it cropped up on BBC Question Time, and this time around it has formed the basis of a YouGov poll, with 21 per cent of Scots saying they could bring themselves to get behind the UK's sole representatives at South Africa 2010. Scotland manager Craig Levein and political leaders of all hues have also been asked for their opinions, responding with diplomatic messages of goodwill for Fabio Capello's side. Just as well, then, that Denis Law is still with us.
Aside from the fact that the other members of the Celtic fringe haven't had to explain who they'll be supporting this summer, what makes this debate especially irritating is that England fans couldn't care less whether the Scots get behind them or not. Seeing your team not qualify for the finals is bad enough; engaging in some serious soul-searching and then being ignored by the new-found object of your affections is even worse.
After all, one of the joys, perhaps the only joy, of supporting Scotland is seeing the Auld Enemy lose. In the nearly 40 years that I've been watching the boys in blue come up short, England have never failed to bring me solace. There have been occasional pangs of guilt along the way, never more so than in 1990. But even though I found it hard to dislike a side containing Beardsley, Waddle, Gascoigne and Barnes, the mere thought of the fuss the media would have made of England beating Argentina in the final made me grateful for their wayward penalty-taking.
Born in England to Scottish (non-nationalist) parents, I've often been accused of being a treacherous fake by friends. They've got a point I suppose, but ever since I watched the likes of Gerry Francis and Kevin Beattie humiliate the hapless Stewart Kennedy at Wembley in 1975 I've stayed resolute. England's self-perpetuating sense of entitlement, undiminished by 44 years of "hurt", has played its part too, as did John Motson with his orgasmic cries of "Keegaaaaaan" whenever the bubble-permed pest stuck one in the back of the net.
So all I can say to that one-fifth of the Scottish population who'll supposedly be giving their backing to Rio and the lads in a few days time is, think again. Your support, which in my experience has never been reciprocated, will be appreciated by no one, believe me. And let's face it, you'll only be letting yourself in for yet more disappointment. James Calder