There is a tangible sense of a new maturity about Scotland’s relationship with England when it comes to the latter competing in major football finals. The referendum vote may not have brought a political separation. However, among the 45 per cent Yes vote there was almost a psychological parting that within this body encourages a perception of England as a good, but removed, neighbour and no longer some imperial oppressor.
Darren Fletcher may not have any of this in mind when articulating his thoughts on the potential for England winning the French finals that begin this week. But what the 31-year-old Scotland international – who has spent more than half his life living down south courtesy of his time with Manchester United and, more recently, West Bromwich Albion – has to say is in tune with a growing number in his homeland.
“I don’t know if I want them to win it; it’s one of them,” he said. “I’m not a supporter but I was never brought up that way where it was ‘anybody but England’. My wife is English and my kids were born in England. I’m not sitting here saying ‘I’m an England supporter’ but at the same time I’m not going to be hoping they lose when they play. If they’re the best team in the tournament – and they deserve to win it – then fair play to them and I’ll applaud them for that the same as I would any other country.”
His United DNA means Fletcher’s interest in the tournament is framed by the bonds he built and the brilliance he witnessed at Old Trafford. “I must admit, seeing all the lads from Wales and Northern Ireland prepare for the Euros has been hard to take. But at the same time I’m pleased for the boys I know. Johnny Evans is a good friend of mine so I’ll be supporting Northern Ireland, I hope they do great.
“It’s just disappointing we’re not there and it really hit home when we were all leaving and the majority of our dressing room are going with the home nations. I used to sit in a dressing room with world class players who were going off to play for England or France and Argentina, all the top countries. So this is hard to take but I’ll watch the tournament even though I’m disappointed not to be there.
“I’d like to see Wayne Rooney show his true ability on the big stage. He’s been very unfortunate until now, going into tournaments injured before. He’s been under a lot of pressure and I know myself, when you’re not fully fit and at it it’s very hard. Wayne has always seemed to have been injured and playing catch-up before tournaments. He’s always done alright without showing his ability. But anybody I speak to talks about how good he looks in midfield.
“He’s controlling games and has goals in him no matter where he plays. I think it looks like he’s going to play in there for England, which will be different for him but he has the quality to do that and he could have a fantastic tournament in that unfamiliar position. I wouldn’t doubt him doing that.”