WITH an eye on becoming the next Prime Minister, Gordon Brown could be forgiven by Scots for playing the unity card and declaring his support for the England team in the looming World Cup.
However, some critics claim the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath went too far yesterday when he also revealed that one of his favourite football memories was a goal Paul Gascoigne scored for England against Scotland in Euro 96.
Mr Brown's comments were revealed in a survey which asked Scottish Cabinet ministers if they would be supporting England in the World Cup.
The Chancellor, who is a keen supporter of Raith Rovers in his Fife constituency, also said more than 60 per cent of Scots would support England's quest to win the World Cup trophy. However, his effusive support left him isolated among fellow Cabinet Scots, who all refused to answer the survey.
In Mr Brown's reply, the Chancellor said "of course" he would be supporting England: "Two-thirds of all Scots want England to win, and I'm certainly one of them. And I'll be there in person to support them for the final group game against Sweden in Cologne."
He also pointed to Gascoigne's skilful goal that secured a 2-0 England win over Scotland in the Euro 96 competition as one of his most memorable football moments.
He said: "[I have been to] lots of England matches, but the most memorable were the Euro 96 game against Scotland, with Gazza's great goal, and the 0-0 game in Rome the following year when England held on to qualify for France 98."
Alex Salmond, the SNP's leader, poured scorn on Mr Brown's comments. "I can't believe that any genuine Scottish football fan could believe that a goal scored against us was his most memorable moment.
"Gordon Brown had better be careful with his recent spate of Union Jack-wearing comments, or real English football fans will begin to smell a rat."
Mr Salmond said it was not appropriate for Scots to support England's opposition in Germany. However, he said he would support Trinidad and Tobago because there were Scotland-based players in the team.
Turnbull Hutton, an Edinburgh businessman who helped Mr Brown save Raith Rovers from bankruptcy last year, branded the Chancellor's support as a "load of rubbish" and an election stunt.
Mr Hutton said: "The Chancellor is way out of step with the vast majority of football fans north of the Border."
Mr Brown's enthusiasm for England was not shared by fellow Scots in the Cabinet. Ian McCartney, a Foreign Office minister, declined to comment on his football allegiances.
"I'm a Scot and a rugby league man, so I don't want to talk about the England football team," he said.