When England are smashed, take comfort in Northern Ireland

I’m old fashioned enough to support England casually as the big team, when the tiddlers have been eliminated in the qualifiers. Those Irish – unionists among them, I know – who put England last rather than support England second are sad bastards as far as I’m concerned.  But I have to say that Northern Ireland qualifying twice in my life time has given me more pleasure than the entire England record, bar watching  the  disputed England victory in 1966  in the company of  a German-supporting Scottish nationalist  in a kilt.

In 1982 I happened to be in Buenos Aires for the Falklands war. The armistice had just been signed on the islands and the BBC reporting team were giving a party to thank the many Hispanics of all nations who had helped us, including a bunch of Anglo-Argentine admirals who had treated the whole conflict as a sort of mediaeval joust – or a World Cup football match come to think of it, only with Argentina on the losing side for once. At the party, an extra excuse for downing gallons of the cheap but excellent local Baron B champagne that evening was the prospect of watching an Hispanic team Spain the WC hosts, thrashing a tiny (leave it!) British team in the World Cup.

And so of course, I ended on the floor screaming after peering through the mists of a terrible TV picture to pick out Gerry Armstrong running the length of the Barca pitch to score the only goal. The TV picture quality was wretched because Argentine TV was boycotting the relay of matches involving British teams, even though the entire football-mad nation, war or no war,was glued to the misty picture from Uruguay TV across the 100 mile stretch of the River Plate. If anything that added to the magic of the moment.

Who in their right minds would swap low expectations exceeded for high hopes dashed every time?

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  • Canny See It Sur

    Congratulations on your attempt at causing offence to all those who don’t blindly follow england.

    Note, there are other teams around the world playing football which might seem a tad more interesting than choosing “themens next door”.

    It’s not always a political choice, and I reckon you’re a sad bastard for assuming it is.


  • Mick Fealty

    Offence? What offence? Dry yer eyes big man!

  • Sammy Clingan

    Sad bastards yeh for not supporting your country’s 2nd biggest rival in football. O, you mean’t Valencia’s pitch didn’t you? Of course…

  • Neil

    I’d certainly find it a lot easier to not want them to lose if they didn’t bum and blow about how fantastic they are. To listen to Adrian Chiles you’d have thought Slovenia and Germany should have got on and booked their flights home due to the fantastic England squad that hadn’t played a decent game and scored a whole one goal as a win was gauranteed.

    Then there’s the whole ‘this is our best chance since 66’ (duh, ya don’t say, you lost all the other times so yes, this is your best chance since 66 and it’s not a very good one) and the perpetualy dragging up of ’66.

    Finally the argument that proximity should make people default their support to their neighbour – try explaining that to a Rangers and Celtic fans, they’re in the same city so by rights once Rangers get knocked out of a tournament all their fans probably support Celtic, right? Nah. The example stands when expanded to neighbouring countries.

    And by rights all the England fans should have a great relationship with ROI (the team all us blinkered, sectarian taigs tend to support), but thinking back to the game abandoned in Landsdowne when the English fans ran riot and got the game called off as they were losing – and that was a friendly.

    Think I’ll stick to my guns and hope the English football team get what the deserve, and in 2010 that’s plane tickets back to the motherland cause they were absolutely shit. Who could have expected or even wanted a team that poor to be crowned world champions. Think of all the shit football that would have to occur on the next fortnight to make that scenario come good. No thanks, think we’re better off with the Germans and the Argies, and with a wee bit of luck the Spanish (I got them in the sweep)

  • Brian Walker

    Sorry Valencia. It wouldn’t be such a vivid memory if I got everything right, now would it Clingan? btw any relation of Klinnsman er Clingon..?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Actually Im not at all sad today. Im surprisingly chipper. It doesnt take much to be honest.

  • smcgiff


  • KPB

    I wonder who German born (but of English ancestory) Maik Taylor supported that game?

  • The English fans and commentators have a ‘Whig interpretation of football’ in which there is assumed to be a teleological progression towards victory. Anything which then confounds this thesis is explained away. Forty minutes into the Algeria game ‘England hadn’t got going yet’- the implication that they would of course get going eventually and win- when in fact they were playing terribly and were not going to improve at all during the course of the game. Might be a legacy of imperial hubris, just like they still haven’t got over the economic rise of the United States and Germany after 1870.

  • Anonin

    When England are smashed, the Irish will laugh. No one cares much if you don’t like it, either.

  • DC

    What happens if you put Germany 1st and England 2nd in support?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think this is true but theres a discomfort with English nationalism because of the “imperial past”.
    The “no surrender to the IRA”, “rule Brittania”, “two world wars and one World Cup” and a national anthem shouted out from the Stands as a football chant sits uneasily with an English Guardian reader who likes football.
    The nature of Sport is that there is a “class dimension” to many Sports……are there any Black English professional golfers. Or..er Jewish golfers.
    Rowing is top heavy with university/public school types and Sailing is obviously rather expensive.
    Three Day Eventing is obviously a country pursuit and for an equestrian type like myself, it is not comfortable to attend an event as the links between Show Jumping, Dressage and Eventing and “Hunting” are rather close. Id be surprised if any of the British Equestrian squad voted Labour.
    Tennis is deemed middle class and in part, England has not managed to produce a professional from the park leagues. Tennis is regarded as a RECREATION rather than a SPORT.
    The Guardian readership found it hard to deal with Tim Henman. Henman Mania was the subject of ridicule. “British player gets past the Wimbledon Car Park”.
    A kinda inverted snobbery here. Henmans brilliance (he was an Olympic silver medalist after all) was in part due to his having a tennis “pedigree” and a tennis court in his garden. Deemed by liberals as “unacceptable”. How dare he be rich and priveleged?
    There is a perception that Golf Clubs and Tennis Clubs (in Ireland as well as Britain) are not exactly inclusive in terms of membership. Anecdotal evidence supports the fact that Jewish and Black people are not exactly welcome. Or indeed the staus of Women (oops I mean “Ladies”) in Golf Clubs.
    Adam Raphael (the journalist) once appeared on Newsnight to note that he had been unable to gain membership of a certain tennis club.
    And older folks here will recall a drama series on BBC in the 1970s called Hold The Back Page (starring David Warner) which dramatised situations in British sports….notably pondering a British tennis champion who did not “look” the part.
    This discrepancy of race and class and the alleged unifying spectacle of Sport is something with which the English cant deal.

  • Serve

    They’re not “next door” though, they’re flat mates, even if in this room of the flat there are people who want to move out and have their own gaff.

    Apart from which if one supports an English club, say Manchester United, it’s hard to not want Rooney to do well (for example).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    or English born of German ancestry………the Windsor family.

  • KPB

    Except when they face the French in the Six Nations when Ireland needs them to win. 😉

  • Mark McGregor

    ‘Sad bastards’

    That’s a tad strong. I’m surprised Mick doesn’t see the potential for offence (not that is bothers me) in it but then again he always was a bit of a stupid arse 😉

  • KPB

    And people wonder why Andy and Jamie Murray brag about their Scottishness rather than their Britishness.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Yeah it is a tad strong but be honest you and I prolly feel the same about people who use words like “the Mainland” and “the province”.

  • Republic of Connaught

    The Scots cheer on English defeats a lot more than the Irish. Indeed the Scots even booed the GSTQ anthem when NI played them in Scotland. Does that make them “sectarian” I wonder? Imagine the nuclear reaction from Belfast if it was booed at a match in Dublin!

    Yes, somehow the Irish unlike the Scots are made to feel especially “bitter” if they laugh at English defeats. I have personally always supported England at World Cups unless Ireland, north or south, were there. Simply because I grew up watching English football and know all the players so well.

    But people are entitled to be Irish or Scottish and not support England in football if they so choose without being called “sad”. It’s “sad” to suggest you should feel obligated to support a neighbouring country if you don’t want to. .

    Especially when you consider the disgraceful behaviour of the English fans abroad for so long.

  • Brian Walker

    Nice one Mark.

  • vanhelsing

    As I keep telling my English friends “we’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland…but it’s all the same to me” 🙂

  • bulmer

    After it was all over in 66 I turned to my grandfather in loyalist Shankill after cheering on W.Germany and said

    “Oh God, no. We’ll never hear the end of this.”

    And we haven’t.

    In 1990 on holiday in Switzerland I watched the semi-final with Germany in a bar with only a welsh lad amongst the Europeans. To a man they all backed the Germans. The problem is that blood is thicker than water and we both cheered on England…but I was still glad they lost.

    Could you imagine the jingoism if they won? I think it might make a UI a potential reality!

  • latcheeco

    Reminds me of the thousands of Scotland fans who taunted at us in Landsdowne during a friendly by chanting: “We hate England more than you.”

  • alanmaskey

    Of course, sport is class based. Most, almost all, of the Brits who won Olympic medals are public school types. It is their sports that getting the Lotto and other funding.
    The Brits, like the Micks, only won three medals standing up and going forward, ie in boxing. And boxing is the working class sport. Winners come from tough backgrounds. Nothing new there.

    In soccer, Kevin Moran was the only guy who could read and write, the others having begun their time as kids. True, Wenger has a degree but he is an exception.

    If the working class took up rugby, the cream would retreat to croquet or whatever so their kids could still get big write ups for their Leinster Schools finals equivalents.

    FIFA made a fortune out of World Cup SA and the SAs paid for everything. All sporting bodies seem to be run by fascists. This is certainly the case with soccer and with the Olympics.

  • G Campbell

    But what about Colombia ?

  • As an Irish man, I have to say there’s nothing better than being in an English pub when Ingerland are imploding. I can’t explain why. I quite like the English etc, don’t hold the historical grudge, follow the premier league. For some strange reason, they just bring out the loathing/gloating in me.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    They arent actually in the World Cup.
    Irish connexions are some of Bolivars liutenants……and er absolutely nothing since then. Nope no connexion whatsoever honestly.
    Except Caitriona Ruane.

  • Have you never heard of Sammy Clingan Brian?

  • And I assume that you weren’t born in 1958?