No decent haircuts? No famous wives? Must be easy

I've just had words with my brother John. Not harsh words, as he is my only brother, five years younger and an awful lot bigger and stronger. A minor disagreement, nothing personal. All he said was that he hopes Scotland get well and truly stuffed.

Just had my son Jake on the phone. He'll never speak to me again unless I get tickets for Wembley on 17 November to witness England get well and truly stuffed.

Strange, isn't it, how families divide? John and I are real brothers, nothing modern or fashionable, sons of the same parents who were true Scots. But my brother happened to be born in Carlisle. He supports England, whereas I, who was born in Scotland, have gone through life proud to be a Scot, especially when it comes to any match against the old enemy.

What about Jake? He was born and brought up in London, went to school and college in England, lives and works in London, still says "nuffink" and "fink", despite his posh profession, where of course he does speak proper. Why does he support Scotland? His blood is only partly Scottish, as his dear mama is pure Cumbrian. Romance. That's the only reason I can think of. Apart from the God of Football, who does move in mysterious ways.

Who will Tony Blair support? Boring old England, I expect, as he looks upon himself as English, supports Newcastle, despite being born in Scotland and going to a Scottish school. The Queen Mother, I can rely on her. She's a proud Scot, managing to lie, sorry, disguise her English birth for many years. The Queen? Who knows,who cares?

There will be many divided families up and down the land, because it was the draw we didn't want. Meeting in the final, yeah, that would have been fun, if highly unlikely, not to say impossible, especially for England. Oh come on. England sneaked in by default. If they had any decency they would back out now and let Scotland carry the British flag.

Kevin Keegan, still loved by the English media and English supporters, is proving as much a fantasist as Glenn Hoddle. His fantasy is that if England get through to the finals, they will win, because they are just so blooming good. He looks round his dressing-room, and thinks, yeah, these lads of mine are brilliant, no one's got better lads, we're bound to win. You can see that sincere, god-like, Hoddle-like expression creep over his crinkled face. Tragic. That it should happen to such a nice bloke.

In theory, his mad optimism could be a good thing, might inspire and instil confidence in his whole team, but it doesn't quite work like that. As we have seen over the past year, England get petty and petulant when things don't work out. Then they go dumb and numb, transfixed, unable to see another route, other tactics. The players haven't said it yet, probably not even thought it yet, but one day soon they'll turn on Keegan and say hey, that's not what you said in your brochure, we're not all that blooming good.

For a hundred years England had delusions of grandeur. Now, for the past 20 years, they have had delusions of adequacy.

Craig Brown is a realist. He knows he has no stars, no brilliant individuals such as Law and Baxter. In those days I used to clutch my little radio inches from my ear and follow every kick, every move Scotland made, confident they would stuff the rotten old English. Which they did. Now and again. Since 1872, not counting war-time games, the score is 44 wins to England and 40 to Scotland. Not a bad record, when you consider that England has always had ten times the population.

On paper, England do have the better chance. Look at all those Big Names, from Big Clubs, earning Big Money. Shearer, Owen, Beckham, McManaman. After that, you have to pause, consider. Redknapp and Lampard, the new boys on the middle block,were pretty anonymous against Belgium. There'll be no Batty, getting prizes for frowning, in which he is world class, so Ince or Butt will be in. If only temporarily. One of them is bound to get sent off. Perhaps Beckham as well.

In Scotland's midfield, there are two non-stars, big neither in fame nor frame - Collins and Lambert. Each has got real European experience, unlike Batty or Butt. They know their powers, their limitations, are unlikely to get sent off or try anything too ambitious. But Collins and Lambert happen to have what the majority of the England squad don't have: technique.

Up front for Scotland, that's more of a worry. I have faith in Don Hutchison, a clever player, who has improved with age. The new young strikers are Gary McSwegan and Mark Burchill. He's Julie's son, you know. Oh yes. Neither has been seen in England, so there will be the element of surprise.

At the back for England, Seaman is now an OAP. Ditto Adams. He clearly knows it and is getting ready for a new career as a traffic policeman. He was always ace at putting his hands up, indicating offside, even before the other team had kicked off. Now he is perfecting his pointing-hand routine,indicating where his team-mates should be for his next pass, before he belts it into the stand. Kieron Dyer has the enthusiasm of youth, but can't defend, is hopelessly naive and has still to prove he's an international player.

The England players will look at the Scottish team and think no problems here, squire, not one of them plays for Man Utd, none has a decent haircut or a half-famous wife. They'll be over- confident, with Kevin's fantasies ringing in their pretty ears.

I hope Scotland win, but as England are my second team, I'll then support them, if they get lucky. That's the only good thing about this emotionally laden, ever so historic draw. A British team is now bound to get to next year's finals.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 October 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - Why the old left is wrong on equality