February 2002
We'll support WHO evermore ?

The joint Scotland-Ireland bid for 2008 doesn't look good enough. And some idiot from the SNP wants Scots to support E****ND in the World Cup!



Henry McLeish
misspent his youth traipsing round the old Division Two with East Fife. Jack McConnell misspent his stitching up opponents and carving out deals in the Labour Party. So there was never much doubt that when McConnell took over as First Minister that Scotland's bid for the 2008 European Championships was in jeopardy.

This writer believes that the only real chance Scotland had of being successful was as a solo bid. That was the one trump card we held over everybody else. A joint celtic bid with Ireland may seem better than the multi-country Scandinavian approach or one from Eastern Europe but was never going to be as good as the Austro-Swiss bid (two small countries, infrastructure in place, stadia all but ready, an imperceptible land border between them, not to mention the HQ of UEFA).

But news that the Irish section of the bid is in disarray just one day before the deadline for submissions is surely fatal. In order to fulfil their side of the bargain, the Irish need to build a new stadium. For that to happen, Bertie Ahern's governing Fianna Fail need to win the Irish General election this year. Now their coalition partners the "Progressive Democrats" ( I use the quotation marks because these word can only be loosely applied) have had second thoughts about backing the stadium.

In the murky world of Irish politics (where so much can depend on what your Granddad was up to in 1921) anything can happen, so its not quite all over yet. But UEFA can hardly fail to have been underwhelmed by first, the failure of Scotland to go it alone, and the farce now unfolding in Dublin.

Time, perhaps to accept the inevitable and start preparing the ground now for a genuine Scottish solo bid in 2012. The only person to gain from this is Jack McConnell. He has skilfully downgraded his predecessor's scheme and can now sit back and blame the Irish for its failure.

Of course there will be those who welcome the bid's demise, claiming that it will mean more money for schools and hospitals. This website is as staunch in its support for our public services as anyone. But to be quite frank, we will ALWAYS need to spend more on education and health. If we wait till the day we have a perfect education system and a perfect health service before we commit any public money to a sporting tournament, then we will wait until doomsday.


There are lots of things to get annoyed about in the Sunday Mail. But given that it has often been the sole Scottish newspaper available to me for almost thirty years, I am able to forgive it much. I don't have to read the rantings of Selina (I was once somebody important, honest I was, really) Scott and her interminable royal name-droppings. Nor do I have to bother with Alison ( Life's really hard, spent all week at free lunches, bistros, wine bars, got pissed rather a lot) Craig.

And I thought I could do without the juvenile scribblings of SNP economics spokesperson Andrew Wilson and his back-of-an-envelope fiscal policies. But the current edition of the Mail contains what is possibly the stupidest idea I have ever heard in my life. Wilson suggests that it would be a good idea for Scots to support England in the World Cup!

Wilson claims to be a football fan (well, a Motherwell supporter anyway) but I doubt if he's ever been to a game. Even the most casual of acquaintances with the Scottish game would be enough to let anyone know that, outside of certain sections of Ibrox, this is a totally crazy suggestion.

Now, I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea that this writer is anti-English. Not by a long chalk. I've spent my entire adult life in England. It is true that I first ventured south after hearing someone shout "fuck the English" at Hampden Park. However, my response to that was "as long as its just the women, that's a great idea."

But I'm one of those who is comfortable with being Scottish/British/European/Jock Tamson's bairn. I've always backed English clubs in Europe (unless against a Scottish team). This goes back to the days when the English sides were managed by the likes of Shankly and Busby and their best players were men like Law, Bremner and Mackay. I've no problems about cheering on a British golfer in a major (sure I'd rather have Lyle, Monty or Lawrie, but I'd also sooner see Westwood or even Faldo win than a Yank). And the Ryder Cup is the one great sporting event which makes everyone on our continent feel genuinely European. If you don't believe me, wait till later this year when you'll hear British people talking about "us" and asking how "we" are doing as a Swede, Spaniard or German lines up a putt.

If its a British boxer I'm in their corner, I'll even choke on my strawberry with delight if Timbo wins Wimbers. But NATIONAL TEAMS are a different story. OK, I'll make an exception in cricket where the only way for a talented Scottish, Irish or Welsh player to play internationally is for England. Though I wish they'd change the name to reflect the fact.

Billy Connolly once said that every Scot is a nationalist at Hampden, Wembley, Murrayfield and Twickenham and that's where it should end. Sentiments I for one wholly endorse. All the stranger then to find an SNP official spokesperson telling us to support England in Japan and Korea this summer.

I'm afraid that Andrew Wilson's thinking here is as muddled as his economics. Come the start of the World Cup the overwhelming majority of Scots will be honorary Nigerians, Swedes and Argentinians. Perhaps this was some pathetic attempt to portray himself as the face of moderate separatism. If so it wont wash. If the SNP ever have their way they will treat my wife and my son as foreigners in Scotland. And they will do the same to every other member of the vast Scottish diaspora. Altogether of much more serious consequence than whoever wins the World Cup.

In any case, Wilson has forgotten that most Scots already support two teams - Scotland and whoever is playing against England.



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