The Anyone But England era is well and truly over


AFTER 50 years as a paid-up member of the ABE (Anyone But England) club for me it’s time to ditch that sentiment, put it on the transfer list, get rid of it, and ensure it never comes back.  I’ll be cheering on England in the rugby World Cup final next Saturday and will be delighted if they win, and if their triumph is plastered all over the TV news and radio good luck to them, and I hope they enjoy it to the full.

 Probably the last time I was in similarly partisan mode was back in 1966, when our family gathered round our black and white telly and supported England every step of the way. In truth, a large part of the reason for that – parental influence being the dominant factor – was that Germany were their opponents, and for folk of that generation who had lived through the war it was utterly unthinkable that anything other than an English/British victory was required. The feeling was passed on with clarity to we youngsters.

 Dennis Law famously said of that game that he was so lacking in support for England that he went for a game of golf on the afternoon of the match. It was a marvellous quote, but not many joined him. Despite the moaning and groaning about English reminders of that triumph over the years, I believe the AGE (Anyone But Germany) mood was widespread at the time, both south and north of the border.

But then things changed over the years and how many times have I – like most other Scots –  mocked and laughed and jeered when England have been beaten, particularly at football. England-baiting has been a national sport in itself.

 But no longer. And I doubt if I am alone.

 What has brought about this radical change of outlook and loyalties?

 Because these days, for too many Scots, the jeering – and worse – isn’t left behind on a football field. The pernicious influence of nationalism has infected sport, like it has so much else.

 A significant number of nationalists dislike England and by default people born in England, and their dislike runs deep. Sheer hatred of the “oppressive British state” all too often has overtones of anti-English feeling.

 And this is no laughing matter, no football joke, no clowning around after the final whistle.

 English folk living in Inverness may not say anything publicly but in private they are uncomfortable – at the very least – with these Saltire-waving mass parades through the streets of the Highland capital. What the nationalists like to present as happy-clappy “inclusive” events are not viewed in that way by at least some English residents here. Some, as they have told me, feel intimidated by them, and stay away from the city centre when they’re on. And, given some of bearded, ranting, Saltire-draped cavemen roaming the streets before and after, I don’t blame them.

 This doesn’t detract from the nationalists’ right to march, the same as any other group. But it’s a modern-day fact of life.

 Now things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. An almost unbelievable – and I use the word again – unthinkable turn for the worse, something I never thought I’d see even discussed in my lifetime.

 If Nicola Sturgeon and her gang get their way we are looking at a “hard border” being erected and separating Scotland from England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

 That will be the inevitable consequence of Scotland being a lackey member of the EU and other parts of the United Kingdom being out of it.

 It would mean English people wanting to come here having to show their passports as they waited in queues to gain entry to Scotland. If there were any queues, that is, given the likelihood of many rightly affronted and even disgusted English folk deciding they want nothing more to do with us.

 In the SNP/nationalist dreamland people from across Europe, Poles, Romanians, Lithuanians and from everywhere else would under “freedom of movement” be able to come here without any checks and restrictions whenever they like.

 Only people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have to show the required documentation to border guards and if your passport happened to be out of date – well you’d better go home and apply for a new one. Entry refused.

 If the nationalists’ plan for a breakaway from the rest of the UK without even knowing what currency an independent Scotland would use is reckless beyond belief, this level of disregard for people from the rest of Britain and Northern Ireland should be enough to bring on a sense of shame among many, many Scots.

 Inverness MP Drew Hendry has made a big play of holding “reassurance” seminars for EU nationals from other countries living here, to tell them the SNP stands foursquare behind them if they face any threat of having to leave the country. The reality is, there isn’t the remotest threat of that ever happening. The SNP’s utterly cynical agenda is to stoke up non-existent “threats” in the hope that it will persuade migrants to vote for independence at a future referendum.

 So, has Hendry any plans to arrange similar seminars to reassure English people here that they won’t be kicked out of an independent Scotland? If that sounds fanciful and absurd just remember – who ever thought we would be looking at a hard border separating England from Scotland. Where the current wave of nationalist fanaticism and zealotry will lead us, who can say.

 So, to bring matters back to where they began, from now on I’ll be standing foursquare behind our English friends and cousins with our shared bond going back decades and generations, and celebrating with them any English sporting triumph, wherever and whenever it happens.

 In the face of toxic nationalism, the Anyone But England era is well and truly over.

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