Anyone but England? Prominent fans reveal if they support Auld Enemy

Scotland v England is football's oldest rivalry. Picture: Michael Gillen
Scotland v England is football's oldest rivalry. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Four years ago in Brazil, England were crashing out of the World Cup finals, again. They had lost to Luis Suarez’s Uruguay 2-1 and one image was going viral.

It was a Scottish fan – with tartan “See You Jimmy Hat”, Scotland top and Saltire – cheering the win among Uruguayan supporters in the Arena de Sao Paulo.

Back in Glasgow, Mark McConville’s family insisted afterwards he was a fan of the South American side and had been for years.

The facts, however, were never going to get in the way of this one: the picture spoke to the “Anyone But England” notion that Scots would go the lengths of the earth to see the Auld Enemy unstuck.

Four years on, the rival teams and their fans find themselves in the same position. But is the rivalry as strong as it was – or has Scotland warmed to this England side’s low-key approach to Russia 2018?

Comedy writer Joe Hullait isn’t sure there has been any change. The 29-year-old Slough-born, West Ham United fan is uniquely revered north of the border for penning the smash spoof police sitcom Scot Squad.

In the ultimate comedy dare, Hullait is offering to wear his England shirt in Scotland if he sells more than 100 tickets for his show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

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“I was in Glasgow during the 2016 Euros for the England games,” he says. “The funny thing then was a lot of Scottish people wanted to make a good show of not seeming like they were just hating England.

“A lot people would say ‘Ah, England, I think they will do well this year’, or ‘We don’t hate England’. But that facade dropped the second England started to do badly – and then everyone was laughing in your face.”

He adds: “People try and draw parallels with the political situation, but that’s not it – essentially people [Scots] just don’t like England.”

Chris Bradley, 38, is a Scottish composer who has penned an unofficial anthem for the England team as a gesture of goodwill. He doesn’t buy the idea that Scots can’t support their neighbours.

He voted Yes in 2014’s Scottish independence referendum, yet he has still been vilified on social media for somehow “betraying” his country.

“I’ve seen posts which say ‘shove your guitar up your arse’,” he says. “I think if football is part of your identity then I can kind of see why there would be a mild irk.

“But at the same time I think it’s ridiculous – it’s like, ‘What are your favourite bands, mate?’ - and the answer is the Rolling Stones, Queen, The Beatles, and the Bee Gees, and they all come from England.

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“Culturally, we’re so inter-dependent, and economically we’re inter-dependent. It’s not good enough to go ‘Well, hell with the English and I don’t like what Thatcher did in the 80s, so screw the English football team. I don’t see how you can jump from that - it’s vile.

“I wouldn’t say, by any means, it’s the majority – but it is the vocal minority, unfortunately.”

However, a YouGov poll published earlier this week found that a third of Scots actively want the England team to lose. Only one in 10 England fans reciprocate the feeling.

Bar worker David Graham, 23, from Glasgow, is clear what drives his apathy towards England.

“Usually, the problem I have with England is the attitude of the media,” he says. “This idea they are going to do it again every single time – when in fact they haven’t done it since ‘66 tires me out.

“I think I would be far more supportive of England if the media scaled back its hype.”

But Paul Goodwin, a spokesman for the Scottish Footballer Supporters’ Association, isn’t so sure we should read too much into the rivalry.

In a past life, he worked alongside the England team with its former sponsors Nationwide. He jokes he was known then to David Beckham and Wayne Rooney as “Wee Jock”.

“We don’t take the rivalry that seriously, and to be honest the England fans that I know don’t take it that seriously either,” he says.

“It’s no different to the rivalry between fans of Sunderland and Newcastle, or Liverpool and Manchester United. Sometimes it makes some Scots look a bit daft and stupid – and fair enough.”

But he adds: “The sentiment that we want England to do really well until they get to the bits with the penalty kicks, and then we enjoy seeing them falling on their faces – which invariably happens – is probably the most accurate reflection of how most Scots think.”