To support England or not?


England manager Gareth Southgate.

Will it be a Belgian, a Croat, a Frenchman or an Englishman who gets to hold aloft football's most prized trophy this Sunday?


We will find out this week, but it seems one Scotsman has done his chances no harm of playing a part in the World Cup final. Scotland's legendary striker Ally McCoist has built up a cult following after a good-humoured, trivia-laden spell as co-commentator on ITV and could be in line to help analyse the final.


But despite his growing reputation across the UK, he has sparked controversy back home by admitting he was cheering on England in their quarter-final win against Sweden.


So what is the correct approach for a proud Scot?


The argument FOR supporting England:


Well, they are our nearest neighbours and our shared ties across the UK mean it should be natural for us to support England. We are familiar with all of their players and the new generation of football fans are just as likely to have posters of Harry Kane and John Stones on their walls as any Scottish players. And this England team is hard to dislike – the lack of ego from Gareth Southgate and the lowered expectations have cast them in the role of the underdog as they have surprised everyone to get to the semi-finals. Sadly, Scotland didn't make it and England are the only representative from the home nations, so go England!


The argument AGAINST supporting England:


Erm, any ambivalence towards the Three Lions tends to go out of the window at the first crowbarred in reference to 1966, the ludicrously-biased commentators and the over-hyped predictions from the drink-fuelled fans. Look, we are Scotland and it's part of our DNA to indulge in a rivalry with our biggest neighbours. Do you think the Dutch were cheering on the Germans or the New Zealanders became Socceroos for a week? I don't think so. England have done well to get to the semi-finals but god forbid they actually pull this off – we would never hear the end of it! We don't have Scotland to support, so cheering on whoever England play gives us a stake – come on Croatia!


So what should we do? It’s simple – watch the game and enjoy it! Support England, support Croatia or support none of the above. Sport is for fun and the World Cup is enjoyed by people well beyond the normal football crowd, so let them find their own interest in it.


Some of the sour comments about the England team haven't been a good look for Scotland, particularly when we are posted missing yet again from the tournament. But rivalry is a huge part of sport and light-hearted banter is part of the fun. Equally, we should have enough security and confidence in our national identity to be big enough to support England if we genuinely like the team and their players. The last thing we need is the World Cup becoming a proxy for some tired constitutional debate or excuse for political bickering.


Let's just hope that, whether it’s Luka Modric or Harry Kane which inspires them, some young kid decides that's going to be him or her in a Scotland shirt playing in the World Cup in a few years.

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