Kenny MacAskill: Once I called them ‘the Great Satan’, but England team has won me over

Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane celebrate in a match marred by racist abuse from Bulgarian fans (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire)
Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane celebrate in a match marred by racist abuse from Bulgarian fans (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire)
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The way the England football team responded to racist abuse from some Bulgarian fans has won over Kenny MacAskill.

Many years ago in my Tartan Army footsoldier days I once described the English football team as “the Great Satan” in a light-hearted speech to an SNP conference.

They were the historic rivals and the “auld enemy”. Battles were waged on the pitch throughout my early years when the Home Nations tournament was the big event, more so than World Cups or European Championships.

The rivalry was intense and the goading by Alan Ball or Emlyn Hughes was profound. They relished beating the “Jocks” and sadly, though I saw a few victories, it was many more defeats.

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But the tournament’s no more, the annual joust has gone. More worryingly the two teams play in different orbits. English superstars have taken them into a higher league than where Scotland currently operate.

However, my view of the English team has also changed markedly. It started years ago when the style of play with Gerrard and Beckham became much more attractive than under Alf Ramsay. More importantly the make-up of the team also encouraged support. The collective defence of black players was heart-warming.

That has continued and the English team this week were top class. Not just with their quite exceptional panache on the park but their behaviour, refusing to meekly accept racism against black colleagues was both inspiring and dignified. The Great Satan has been slain, the auld enemy has made a convert.