So England are out the World Cup; the Three Lions rolled over – and we can expect plenty more gloomy Anglo introspection about failings over the coming days. But Alex Salmond must be even more gutted than anyone south of the Border. Over at SNP HQ, they would have been cheering England’s boys on like crazy – because if ever there were something more certain to elicit anti-English sentiment among the Scots in the run up to a referendum, it would be a successful World Cup run.
As an Englishman who has lived in Scotland, I’m afraid I know how unbearable it can all seem when England is doing well in a tournament. And just think of all the lager-fuelled, synthetic passion, and off-putting chauvinism — had we beaten Uruguay and Italy. And if by some miracle — and it really would have taken a miracle — we had somehow lifted the trophy, the Union would surely have been sunk. Imagine it. We English would have been intolerably smug throughout the summer, especially towards our jealous northern neighbours. In no time we would have whipped the Scots into a resentful lather. By September 18, the day of the referendum, after two months of “Football’s come home” celebrations, the Scots would have wanted nothing to do with us whatsoever.
After all, they, like the English, seem to care more about football than about politics or economics. The fury they feel at George Osborne threatening to deprive them of the pound would be as nothing compared to that inspired by the sight of Wayne Rooney holding aloft the World Cup amidst a sea of St George’s crosses and jubilant Englishmen.
Happily for Unionists, things have turned out rather differently. The English are despondent. And the Scots, rather than resenting our football success, are showing an unusual level of sympathy towards us. Even the retired pop star Pat Kane, a leading light of the YES campaign, has offered his condolences
Nae luck #England. Mutually pish fitba teams probably not best expression of “social union”. Even heard BBC News say “Disaster For England”!
— pat kane (@theplayethic) June 20, 2014
The longer England’s campaign went on, the more English commentators would implore Wayne et al to ‘bring football home’. To a home Scotland want to ensure is distinct from theirs. Now, they’re extending fraternal condolences. For the Englishmen who love the Union, this is some consolation.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.