Denis Frize: Let's all support United for footballing success

Here are a couple of questions for your next pub quiz. Which Scottish team got through to the final of the FA Cup in London but never played? And which Scottish team played a round of the FA Cup in Ireland?

We need a Team UK if we are ever to enjoy a repeat of 1966. Picture: PA/ Britsh Pathe PLC
We need a Team UK if we are ever to enjoy a repeat of 1966. Picture: PA/ Britsh Pathe PLC

I’ll leave the answers to the end, but as a clue, let’s just call the teams for the moment the Hoops and the Germans.

But why neither team could feature in the final?

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For a start, neither team could afford the train fares to get to the game. And the other reason was that the idea of giving working people the Saturday afternoon off was a novelty. This is why three o’clock was until TV’s dominance of the game, the traditional kick-off time. Leave work at one, get in charabanc, travel 20 miles eating sandwiches, change and play.

Which is why we have a separate Scottish FA with separate cups and leagues from England. Everything was dictated by the exigencies of the Victorian railway timetable.

And this is why, time after time, British teams are humiliated in international football. Divided we fall. Ask yourself this simple question. Imagine Germany played as Prussia, Saxony, Rhineland and Bavaria. What possible success would they have had?

Johnny Foreigner must laugh himself silly into his pils, vin ordinaire or Rioja at the fratricidal efforts of our teams, some of them from population densities smaller than his biggest cities.

Now let’s extend the analogy to golf. For years and years the gallant kamikazes of the British team pitted themselves against the mighty American carriers. And crashed and burned. Now look at the success when the numerical odds are evened up by a European team.

And above all look at the success of Team GB in the Olympics. Murray, Wiggins, Ennis-Hill, each from a completely different location and social stratum in Britain.

So isn’t time we gave up our self-flagellatory approach to international football? Simply from the last European Championship, imagine a Team UK with the passengers stripped out of the England team, Gareth Bale as captain and Chris Coleman as manager. Enough to frighten the French!

So let’s stop giving the only six teams that matter – France, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Argentina and on-and-off Holland more or less a two-goal start in every match. The biggest enemies of the England team are the English press themselves, who time after time hype up a group of also-rans from the Premier League into believing they are in the same company as the afore-named teams.

They always point to their winning the World Cup in 1966, but how could they have done otherwise, when they did not have to qualify, there were only 16 teams, every match was played in front of 80,000 of their own rabid supporters and the final was refereed by a Russian who, a scarce 21 years after the cessation of hostilities, would probably have got sent to Siberia if the Fascist-capitalist-revanchist Germans had won.

So let’s start playing the game to our own advantage. Let’s look forward to World Cup 2022. And the winners. Team GB.

Oh, and the answer to the quiz? The Hoops were Queen’s Park. And the Germans were the Harry Rags, Partick Thistle, who nowadays play in the same colours as Germany.

Denis Frize is an English teacher. He lives in Dunblane.