I think I'm going off England, and Scotland, words I never expected to creep into my brain. I lived for England-Scotland games as a boy, ears glued to the cat's whiskers. There was no National Health in those days, so it was hell for my mither getting me unstuck.
Last Saturday, we had friends for lunch, but I kept the radio on in my room, hoping to pick up how Scotland was getting on against the Faroe Islands. When they went two down, our friends could hear me effing and blinding, so I had to confess about the voices in the other room. Turned out they had been to the Faroes and could not believe the Faroese had a football pitch, let alone a team. "It's just a lump of rock," they said. There's no easy games in world football, I told them. Even against uninhabited islands, they're awfie hard to beat these days.
When it filtered through that Scotland had managed a draw, I was over the moon, got out my tartan scarf, did a head stand on the lawn. That's what Lord Kinnaird used to do, after a win. He was a Scottish aristo who played for Old Etonians in the 1882 FA Cup Final, beating Blackburn Rovers 1-0, bloke with a red beard, long white trousers, now you remember him.
Then I watched the England-Portugal game, yawn, yawn. I think Sven probably fell asleep as well, though it's hard to tell. He's perfected his supercool, non-shouting, non-standing-up, no-emotional-involvement-in-football persona. Can't even pick up his own pencil to make notes, getting Steve McLaren to do it for him, while he watches with a dazed expression. I did praise him, early doors, for being at so many League games. Now I know how he does it. It's his Madame Tussaud's waxwork we see, sent out round the country as his sub.
Apart from World Cups, international games have lost their appeal, for fans and players. Alan Shearer is enjoying not playing for England so much, he's twice as good as when he was England captain. What a bore it must be, having to drag off to dreary countries, or islands, or rocks, in the middle of a busy season. As a fan, I did regret it when the Home Internationals were given up, but now I don't miss them. Any Premier League game, any Third Division game, would be better than Northern Ireland v Scotland. Football life, like life itself, has moved on.
But why has it left Scotland behind? No one has yet offered a decent explanation. They were flooding over the border into English football for over a hundred years, out of the pits and the steelworks, to become stars at Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Leeds, Man U, Newcastle. Now none of their stars is Scottish.
The theory was they were coming to better themselves, even though for a hundred years the wages were only twice those of a skilled worker. Now, it's £50,000 a week for any old Premiership player and £500 a week for our window cleaner, so they're earning a hundred times more. It can't be for lack of incentives.
Too many deep-fried Mars Bars? Good try, but it's a myth. Too many foreign footballers coming in, stealing their women and their wages? That explains why Rangers and Celtic are full of foreigners but does not apply to the national team.
Lack of talent? That's the most likely reason. These things go in cycles. But one thing strikes me about the Scotland team which may well be holding it back. It's all white. I can't think of a black player or even mixed-race player who has turned out for Scotland. England, the team and the country, have gained so much by being so ethnically diverse. As have France, Spain, Portugal, Holland and even Norway and Sweden. Scotland has become so insular, in every sense.
It gives me hope for England, with such a broad pool to draw upon, which we'll need. Just think of those truly great world giants they have to play in the next few months. Not rocks but real countries - Slovakia and Liechtenstein. Scary, huh . . .