Gerry Hassan has a new article on the 'Anyone But England' phenomenon, in which he reaches a very different conclusion to my own. He doesn't actually use the word 'bigotry', but I dare say 'small-mindedness', 'xenophobia' and 'prejudice' amount to pretty much the same thing! I've already explained why I think the prevailing Scottish attitude towards the England football team has to be seen in the context of the unhealthy (and extremely unusual) media set-up we have, with broadcasters that earnestly claim to serve the whole UK dropping that pretence just as soon as England are involved in a football match. Gerry himself gives the game away when he talks about Scots annoyance at "the assumption in the English media that England might win the World Cup". I presume the "English" media he is talking about includes the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the UK-wide network ITV? For the avoidance of doubt, I'm not suggesting for a moment that the UK media should be anything other than totally supportive of England. But what they actually do is talk to their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland audience as if they are English.
I must also take issue with a couple of Gerry's other specific points. He seems to regard the STV "who will you support?" campaign as an integral part of the 'Anyone But England' phenomenon. But how? Why? Not having an automatic loyalty, and being able to choose between the thirty-two teams for idiosyncratic reasons, is surely the 'default setting' for anyone from a country that has not qualified for the World Cup. Or is Gerry trying to tell us that the only way not to be "small-minded", "prejudiced" and "xenophobic" is to be actively pro-England? I can hardly think of a better example of a 'small island' mentality than not being able to imagine transferring your loyalty to anyone other than your nearest neighbour, regardless of who they are playing, regardless of circumstance.
But this is the comment from Gerry that really takes the biscuit -
"Some of the Scots claims border on the ridiculous. The belief that the English go on about 1966, was true forty years ago, but the only people who go on about it now are Scots football fans that can't get over it."
Has he never listened to a Clive Tyldesley commentary? Three seconds, Gerry!