Being born Scottish – like being a homosexual – isn’t a lifestyle choice. Both footballing issues this past week as it happens.
I had no choice in the first. Never tried the second. My prep school matron saw to that. Spartam Nactus.
I don’t know what was more shocking. Our football team qualifying for a proper tournament in a quarter of a century. The players knowing the words to “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” – a song even further back from 1977. And singing it. Or FA chairman Greg Clarke’s car crash assertion to MPs that being gay was a “life choice”.
Football is a funny old game. Just not if you’re Scottish. Not only have finally we qualified for The Euros since an age before Google, Strictly Come Dancing and the SNP as vote winners, but we’re taking on the English in the same tourney. A chance to re-live our greatest moment when we became World Champions in 1968 humbling them 3-2 in their own backyard. Forgetting 5-past-Kennedy at the same ground.
Can we win? Of course. Just as every year I believe we can win the 6 Nations. Which I really believe now after trouncing the Welsh in the 6 Nations.
I have a small but significant part in our Scottish footballing history. I came up with the “Greatest Ever Scotland Team” event when I was a Daily Record/Sunday Mail Director. The nation voted, it was a hotly contested affair. Even Trump would have approved. All culminating in the biggest ever dinner under canvass. Stuck it up on the Hampden pitch – which so badly damaged what was already a mud patch it had to be re-turfed.
I flew Sir Alex up by jet to read out the teamlines – along with Denis, Sir Bobby, Paddy and Greatest Ever Goal scorer Archie Gemmill. Andy Goram – my sometime golf partner – would only come if I settled a libel case he had against the paper. He was the goalie, legal settled. Rangers had a Champions League replay, so we had to move the date a week. Which meant Willie Miller could make the dinner. Didn’t have the heart to tell Big Eck he wasn’t in the team as his defensive partner. He had paid for two tables.
As a finale one of my guests – BBC Controller and old friend Kenny MacQuarrie – watched in horror as a bottle of lager being “held” by one of my staff somehow came into contact with his brightest comedy star Ford Kiernon’s head. Like all great footballing occasions, it ended in blood.
Oh. And Denis Law was voted the Great Ever Player. Which meant King Kenny wasn’t.
So it’s England next summer. I don’t hate the English like many of my separatist country folk. Andy Murray got sideswiped on that one, remember? The Editor of The Sun – the great Kelvin – had never been north of Watford. He still referred to us as Tartan Tosspots. In a loving way.
Unlike Miss Sturgeon, I don’t want to separate from them. That will make a lot of sense when the next round of bat plague hits us and we need a £10B lifeline.
Instead I have a deep-seated respect for them. Their bloody-mindedness, in-built sense of superiority, glorious pageantry. And great looking birds. London – what a city.
I support them against any other team bar us obviously. Especially the rugby team. But I would never pull an England shirt over my head – that’s too much. At best they look on us with mild amusement, we’re already clamouring for tickets, they’ll pick it up on the tele. Unless it’s a corporate freebie. And does it clash with Wimbledon? And don’t make too much noise.
Denis summed it up. Going amongst them? It’s missionary work. So yes – I love them dearly, can’t wait to bloody hump them in the Euros. So I can boogie.
*Extra time: While we were being beaten 1-3 by England a few years back my pal tried to lighten the mood. “What do Siamese twins from Drumchapel call their penis. Oor Wullie”. Nope. Didn’t help then either.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. Based in Scotland, he is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser.