Home thoughts from abroad – Issue 73

Posted by in February's Magazine

Richard Keys and Andy Gray may have lost their jobs at Sky but I can’t help feeling their outmoded views are perfectly suited to resurrecting their careers fronting the proposed return of the Home International Football matches. Apparently the English FA are reconsidering their position on this and are poised to support backing England’s participation from 2012. They had previously rejected all calls and consequently Wales, Scotland and (both) Irelands are going ahead without them.

The English view was that it was a retrograde step, in today’s congested fixture list the last thing that was needed was for the home nations to slog it out on freezing Wednesday nights for the dubious honour of being crowned champions of the British Isles. We may be reverting back to the 1950s in other areas of national life, the aforementioned Keys and Grays views of women for one, Eton and Oxbridge educated men leading the Government, even a Royal Wedding to divert the masses from the daily grind, but football needs this like a hole in the head.
The home nations are falling behind the rest of the world, we need to focus on passing the ball, increasing skill levels, becoming more tactically aware, none of these will come to the fore in this annual slug fest.



90-minute nationalists
In world footballing terms it’s a non-event with all the relevance of a group of vertically challenged individuals arguing about which of them is tallest…so why England’s change of heart? Money. England have a new sponsor, Vauxhall the car manufacturer, who just happen to be in the process of tying up deals with all the other home nations, they wish to be seen as the car maker of Britain. For the fans it is a case of money dictating when and against whom games are played, not content with pushing fixtures all over the week at any time of day to satisfy sponsors we now have a manufactured cup that the nations teams are willing to sell themselves for.
For England it’s a lose-lose situation, if they win people will say that they should with all their players and resources, if they lose then they will be taunted mercilessly. For those of us residing north of the border it will be another couple of weeks when we will need to avoid the pubs as the 90-minute nationalists head to the bar to wreak their brand of uncompromising banter and wit on any unsuspecting Sassenach. In England the arrogant fringe will talk of ‘whipping the Jocks’ and the press will deride the opposition and the England team in equal measure as once again they underestimate the strength of England’s opponents and over estimate the ability of the over-paid prima donnas in white.

Some no doubt will be relishing the chance to swing once more from the Wembley goal posts. Our very own Alex Salmond, a fully paid up member of the tartan army who is not afraid to be photographed beer in hand looking for a fountain to paddle in, will surely be rubbing his hands at this great opportunity to raise the national consciousness. Whilst the various Football Associations were reviewing this opportunity to fall back into a petty nationalistic squabble, he was taking the opportunity, on Radio 4’s Desert Island discs, to confirm to everyone that he was Scottish.

A professional Scotsman
This may come as a surprise to some, but Alex was obviously concerned that some people hadn’t got the message, five of his eight tunes were drawn from these shores, including The Proclaimers (not sure what his fellow Jambos thought of that!) and of course Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia. For reading material it was the complete works of Rabbie Burns! However it was not Alex’s wrapping himself in the Saltire that was so distracting, he is like his pal Sean Connery first and foremost a professional Scot, no it was where he drew his political ambition from. His mother was a staunch unionist, his father a labour firebrand, but it was through his grandfather who talked of a Scotland “that was like Braveheart only better,” that young Alex found his drive.
Here is a potential leader of an independent Scotland driven not by a sense of injustice to working people, or a belief in the NHS, or making lives better for all, no here is a man whose politics lie in stories and fables, he states that he is no Brigadoon shortbread nationalist, my fear is given half a chance he may yet write his own version of Grimm’s Fairytales.

At some point we need to stop going backwards, we need to look forward for our inspiration. As the May elections loom large, is it too much to hope that our politicians might take heed? The future of Scotland is not wrapped up in Tartan mythology any more than the future of football in these isles is a return to the Home Internationals. Give us a vision of a modern forward looking country and let’s leave the past where it belongs.

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