During the independence referendum, I was drinking with a few activists and the subject of “hating the English” cropped up. None of us actually did. Most of the people I met during that campaign were more or less ambivalent on that one. Only a hard-core ever expressed what I’d have regarded as anti-English sentiment, and that was about Little England, that fabled place of old where Daily Mail readers pretend they once lived.
How did that subject rear its head that day?
Easy. A guy joined our conversation briefly and asked when we’d get to “the elephant in the room” – England’s role in spreading mayhem and murder and slavery across the world. I gently reminded him these things were actually done in the name of the union and Scots were amongst the voracious colonialists of the lot.
And he said to us, as if made the argument better, “We’re not the only people with reason to hate the English, you know.”
To that there was no argument at all, because the sentiment “Anyone But England” is one that is expressed, clearly, in a variety of countries across Europe and the world. Like the guy in the bar that day, the people who hold that view are clear that there are many reasons for it, and that some of them clearly equate England with Britishness … and unarguably they speak of Scotland as if it was almost a separate thing from the UK.
This week, at the EU summit, Theresa May was there representing England, and no two ways about it. Downing Street announced that it would fly the English flag for what’s left of the World Cup. I’ve heard EU leaders talk about how “England is leaving”.
The way some of our senior politicians behave, and speak, you can see that they, too, believe in Brexit as some kind of English crusade to which the rest of the country is being dragged whether it likes it or not, and in Scotland we clearly don’t.
During the independence referendum you heard a lot of bullshit about how “united” the United Kingdom is. The more you view our political class the clearer it becomes that their attachment to the idea is as transitory as the one Sevco fans hold over the Survival Lie; it works for them until it doesn’t. It matters to them until it’s no longer convenient.
And that’s the point here; I am very much on the Anyone But England bus, and the reason for it is very simple indeed. In certain ways, they are so like Sevco that it would make a man crazy. It goes beyond the number of the crazy club’s fans who are waving the St George flag at the moment, but that so many of them self-define that way is telling.
This is about a sense of entitlement. It manifests itself in the belief that England has some divine right not only to be at the top table but to be winning things at it, in spite of a history which can boast only one big success.
Sevco’s six-year history does not justify any of their own bombast, and even if you accepted them as Rangers that club was burned to the ground in 2012 and only a shadow of it remains. Sevco is not a big club, and Rangers was only one because it was spending other people’s money. Success is not “natural” to them.
This is also about bitterness seeping into games. Is there any country with which the English don’t claim some historical enmity? The “old enemy” of France … this dates back to the era of Henry for God’s sake. The “real enemy” of Germany; is there any country that wants to re-litigate World War 2 quite so much as these morons seem to enjoy? And as if that’s not enough there’s the “new enemy” of Argentina, and the tasteless refighting of a war fought for Margaret Thatcher over a few thatched roofs and some Union Jack painted sheep.
Sevco has the same bitterness problem, and it bleeds into games against Hibs, Aberdeen, Motherwell, Celtic and a raft of others. These Peepul hate almost all the rest of Scottish football. They have their own “stab in the back” myth to increase the toxicity. The tone of their supporter’s forums is anti. Anti-everything and everyone.
There is the obsession with militarism; for that manifested in Englishness see the point about historical enemies. The last World Cup Finals where they drew Argentina came with Falklands style news reels. I mean, for God’s sake. The Germans were treated to a rash of “Don’t mention the VAR” style jokes after crashing out this week. It leaves a bad taste.
The media of course is the worst of it. Ordinary English fans enjoying seeing their team do well, that’s one thing. But hearing the gloating, sneering, contemptuous way the hacks in the studios talk about other nations – they’ve written off not only Colombia but their next prospective opponents in Switzerland or Sweden on the march to the trophy is the worst of it. It’s hardly a wonder that most of the rest of the world longs for them to get beat.
And this is akin to how Sevco and its media lackeys talk about second place and “challenging Celtic” as if there we were the only two teams in the league.
Add to this a hooligan element amongst their supporters, unsavoury songs, the need for the travelling support to “leave its mark” wherever it goes and the general bigoted mood that seeps through at a lot of their games and the parallels are obvious.
I want England to lose to Colombia and that has nothing to do with being a narrow nationalist. I would have no problem with cheering on Ireland or Wales in the World Cup and I don’t play favourites with any other team and I write this at a time when I am not exactly terribly predisposed towards Scotland and our own national side.
I want them to lose because they are unbearable during a major finals. They remind me so much of a side very close to here, and with whom I have plenty of reasons for wishing ill. It’s exactly what they wish for me and for mine.