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04th Jul 2018

World Cup Comments: Why as a proud Scot I’ll be cheering on Sweden against England… but fear the worst

Kom igen Sverige

Jim Burke

My name is Jim and I am a 54-year-old Scotsman with a particular passion for football

Just over four years ago, the stars aligned to bring me to Manchester – a city much like my home town of Glasgow, both in terms of the people and the fact that football is woven into the very fabric of the place. Due to a childhood sympathy for United – born of my late father knowing both Paddy Crerand and Tommy Docherty – and a thriving non-league football environment, my passion was always likely to be indulged.

The forming of a particular attachment to local side West Didsbury and Chorlton in the last couple of years, allied with the resurgence of Celtic in Scotland, meant that everything in my football garden recently had been rosy, to put it mildly. Then the bloody World Cup started…

During my football crazy childhood growing up in the 70s, Scotland had a number of genuinely world class players. Almost every top team in England had a spine of Scots lads. In those days, there were three live games on TV a year: the FA Cup Final, the European Cup Final, and the big one that everyone had an interest in – the Home International Game between Scotland and England.

It was this game that formed and indeed nurtured a lifelong hatred of the English football team. Watching that mulleted whopper Gerry Francis rattle two past the hapless Stewart Kennedy in a 5-1 defeat leaves scars on an 11-year-old that never heal, and it was these experiences that helped form a view that persists to this day.

For clarity, when I say ‘I hate England’, it’s not actual hate – it’s football hate. Most English people are tremendous. You have some of the greatest cities around. What I am talking about is the type of rivalry without which football has little or no point.

As is common in fitba, quite often only fans of one team see another as a rival, which in England fans’ case leads to lots of “Well, if Scotland were in a tournament I’d want you to do well” type of comments. Here’s the thing: you can ram that right up yer hoop. That’s not how rivalry – even one-way rivalry – works. And thank whatever big ghostly deity you believe in for that.

Kindly take that lifelong hatred as read, and let’s talk about recent events – in particular England in this year’s World Cup.

I had a bad feeling about this tournament from the very beginning. The squad announcement set the tone when I realised you had absolutely zero utterly unlikeable individuals in your squad. Where were the Terry’s, Lampard’s and Hart’s of yesteryear? Throw in a humble, likeable manager, a media campaign against an England player which appeared to be driven by his skin colour, and I knew I was bang in trouble.

But this is the real joy of rivalry: even with all of that going for England, my antipathy is completely intact. Incidentally, the “I’m not arsed about international football” lads on Twitter going full-on “It’s coming home” has fuelled the rivalry fire, and leaves me where I am today. And that’s in a position where I’m looking at the draw and have a genuine fear that a semi-final place is comfortably within England’s grasp, probably against a Russian side that may well have run out of, erm…juice.

If England do make it to the final, I genuinely don’t know what I’ll do. This World Cup has the potential to be one of the greatest ever, but for that to happen England need to go out. At worst at the semi-final stage, at best on Saturday. If that doesn’t happen, then it will comfortably be the worst ever.

I’m sure some of you are still struggling to understand how I am feeling, so imagine you were a Manchester United fan, and you lived in a country where 95% of the people and all the media you are exposed to were enthusiastic Liverpool fans, and they were not only on their way to the Champions League final, but you believed they could actually win it. How would you feel?

This is the thing that makes football the greatest game in the world. For as much as football doesn’t really matter, it also means absolutely everything.

So there you have it. I love living in England – particularly the city of Manchester – love the North West and its people, but a 70s Scottish upbringing means I will be adopting as many dual nationalities as it takes to be on the winning side against your national side.

Kom igen Sverige!