CALLING it a ‘friendly’ was always a stretch, but the atmosphere at Tuesday night’s fixture to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the England-Scotland game verged on the poisonous at times. The pre-match rendition of God Save the King was drowned out by cacophonous booing from the majority Scotland support in Glasgow’s Hampden Park. The England team was cruelly barracked for the rest of the game and there were reports of an England fan being bottled.
As to the booing of the national anthem, this epic gracelessness was celebrated by Scottish nationalist comic the National, which quoted a number of tweets revelling in the abuse, one describing it as ‘music to my ears’ and another calling it ‘the highlight of the game’.
One of the few to stand against this was Scottish legend Ally McCoist, on commentary duty for Channel 4: ‘I think another country’s national anthem should be respected and I think it was absolutely out of order. I do not like the booing of any national anthem to be honest with you. I just think it is a distinct lack of respect. I genuinely dislike it intensely.
‘I get the rivalry with England and Scotland, and I get some of the Scots, perhaps SNP, fans giving it the whole bit, but I am talking about in general. There should be respect shown for an opposing national anthem and I think it is totally out of order.’
When challenged that he was being too ‘pro-English’ (!) McCoist came back with a glorious riposte that could serve as a perfect soundbite or slogan in any future Indyref campaign: ‘I’m British, got a problem with that?’
It certainly has more bite than ‘Better together’.
God bless you, Ally, or save you perhaps, as the venomousness of the Scottish nats, whose influence you quite rightly dared to imply, knows no bounds. Expect to be held up as Public Enemy Number One in the scarily authoritarian SNP-led shambles of a country and vilified for ever more for challenging the orthodoxy of wee heroic Scotland tethered and oppressed by its wicked colonial overlords down south.
Still, I reckon Ally can shoulder it; you don’t survive the bear pit of Scottish football as a star Rangers player without having some grit. And while most footballers either keep their heads down and align themselves only with fashionable, brand-building causes (rainbow laces, ‘one love’ armbands . . . ) Ally has never made a secret of his pro-union stance. He was signatory to a message of support for the No campaign in the 2013 referendum.
Their statement read: ‘We are proud Scots who have been proud to represent our country around the world. When Scotland calls, we answer.
‘We are proud that Scotland has always stood on its own two feet but we also believe that Scotland stands taller because we are part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is a country Scotland helped to build. We urge every patriotic Scot to help maintain Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom which has served Scotland so well.’
McCoist received the inevitable fusillade of online abuse for his troubles.
What strikes this writer, a long-term observer of the football scene and a Scotland supporter to boot, about last night’s events is not that England were abused – ’twas ever thus – but that it was received without any official condemnation. Which highlights the SNP’s naked Anglophobia. Those in doubt of that need only recall First Minister Humza Yousaf’s tortured and pathetic evasions when asked to wish the England women’s team well in the World Cup final against Spain.
These attitudes come from the top now. State-sanctioned.
The other notable difference from times gone by is the signal lack of humour. Yes, the rivalry between England and Scotland was always ferocious, and there was always a fair degree of ‘bother’ at games with the auld enemy, but there was always humour too, a sense that at the end of the day, however vitriolic it all seemed, we were basically on the same side. Take Jimmy Hill’s regular roastings by the Scottish fans. It was funny, gloriously un-PC, and a backhanded compliment for a man the Tartan Army, I suspect, secretly admired. Hill once said he loved it.
Now we get genuinely cruel barracking of Harry Maguire and chants aimed at Harry Kane that ought to fall foul of Humza Yousaf’s notorious hate crime legislation.
For sure, England fans hardly have a reputation as paragons or virtue, and there was an unpleasant minority of presumably away support disrupting the silence in memory of Scotland boss Craig Brown that mustn’t be excused. But England fans’ bad behaviour has always been quite properly condemned, and England supporters have never held themselves up as distinct and special in the slightly desperate manner of the Tartan Army.
All in all, it was a very bad night for Scottish football. With the honourable exception of Ally McCoist, we were outclassed.