If Scotland votes Yes it’ll make no difference to football

Hunter Davies’s The Fan column. 

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I was so excited when Scotland scored, imagine, taking the lead against Germany, world champions, wow. The scorer was Ikechi Anya, who is of mixed race, a story in himself. He was born in Glasgow, dad Nigerian, a research scientist who studied at Oxford, while his mother is Romanian, an economist.

He failed at first as a pro footballer, moved to Glenn Hoddle’s reject academy in Spain, but managed to make it back to Watford, ending up playing for Scotland. And scoring against Manuel Neuer, the world’s best goalie. The whole thing is pure fantasy and of course it didn’t last. The Germans came back and scraped a 2-1 win . . .

Then came the England game, yawn yawn, against boring old Switzerland, and yes, they managed a win. Since then some English supporters have been dancing in the street, the back pages convinced England will win the Euro Nations. Some hope.

I was born in Scotland, of Scottish parents. Yes, another one. Interesting how in the past few weeks ten million people have come out as part-Scottish. Reminds me of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show – ten times the actual US population claimed they’d watched it.

As a little boy, listening to Scotland games on the radio, my little heart beat so fast that I ended up with asthma. I still want Scotland to win, at anything, and get so emotional, always making allowances. Come on, even scoring one goal against Germany, you did great.

With England, as long as they’re playing anyone except Scotland, I also want them to win, but my emotions are more rational, not blind and batty like my support for Scotland.

I was at their World Cup win in 1966, cheering like mad (one million were present, in a stadium built to hold 100,000). Since then I seem to have done more moaning than applauding. Not one player at present excites me. Yes, Sterling, whom God preserve, is good, but Rooney, Wilshere and Welbeck are so inconsistent and infuriating.

Scotland going independent or not will make no difference to my support, nor to Scottish football. It is already a separate body, has been since the SFA was set up in 1873. My dear friend John Prescott, out on the stump in Rutherglen for the No campaign, showed his ignorance by suggesting that the Scotland and England teams should play together – then they might beat Germany, har har. No chance, John.

With independence, there would be complications under Uefa rules about what precisely is a “home-grown player”, as if that’s not already confused enough. And we’d presumably lose coverage of the Scottish league tables in the England national papers, as well as some of the TV coverage.

I turned on BT Sport to watch Raith Rovers at home against Rangers and distinctly heard some of the crowd singing “Rule Britannia”. The commentator didn’t say which side for. Could it have been the Rovers fans, in support of Gordon Brown, Kirkcaldy-bred, a boyhood Raith fan, getting behind him and the No campaign? Or Rangers? They sing Union Jack-type songs to annoy Irish supporters of Celtic. But for the referendum in the air, I would never have bothered trying to work it out.

The Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley, is supposedly thinking of buying Rangers, in which he already has a 9 per cent share. It might enable him to own two different clubs, if they were each in a foreign country.

There could be some nasty chants at the Scotland-England friendly at Celtic Park in Glasgow on 18 November. Good timing, having it so soon after the referendum. Unpleasant patriotic emotions have been aroused in the past few months. But apart from all that, I can’t see football being affected either way by any changes in Scotland.

For me, though, if Scotland were ever to introduce its own passports, I would definitely apply. I like the idea of Carlisle (my home town) becoming a Border city again. I also like the idea of there being yet another “foreigner” in my own family. My four grandchildren have all got foreign blood somewhere – from Botswana, Cameroon, France, Ireland, Italy. My dear wife, being pure English, could feel rather out of things . . . 

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 appears in the 17 September 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Scotland: What Next?

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