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Roker Ramble: I found myself supporting Scotland against England... is that bad?!

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Wonderful Jocks, insane business dealings, managerial chatter and the world of politics - the Roker Ramble analyses it all.

Scotland v England - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

I’ve no idea how many Scots were crammed into Hampden Park, baying for blood against England, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant and a welcome contrast to the sterile, energy-sucking atmosphere of doom that pervades England’s home games. So much so that within five minutes of the kick-off I felt myself rooting for Scotland, and when their second went in I felt like I used to feel supporting England.

It made me think back to when that was, and by coincidence the last time I probably felt that good was exactly twenty years ago in Euro 96 when England played Scotland.

On June 15th 1996 Gazza scored the infamous ‘dentist’s chair’ goal at Wembley and it was just insane - I remember it so clearly. I went round to a friends house to watch, so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of the family, and the whole country was watching – it was huge, in a way that kids might not even comprehend now.

How sad was it then twenty years later to watch a rematch of the same game but to cheer for the opposition? Twenty years of under-performing against ‘smaller’ teams, of building up hopes for tournaments just to fail miserably, of dull, uninspiring tactics, of players not trying, poor management and continual under-achievement. Twenty years of being bored.

England v Scotland
Superb.

But it was good to see Craig Gordon again even if it was something of a pity that he had a bit of a shocker. It was also heartening to see basically second level journeymen (no disrespect intended) play with pride and enthusiasm against the so-called elite. I like Scotland and (most of) the Scots and it would be brilliant if their football team could match the resurrection of their rugby mates.

Of course, some disagree:

Scotland is a miserable sodden third-rate sexually repressed backward shithole of a country where everyone has to pretend to appreciate every minute of their sterile defeated life.

Francis Gallagher (The Barrenness of Home)

It hasn’t quite captured the bouncy rhythmic structure of ‘There was a wee lassie from Fife’ but there’s no disguising the sentiments behind it.

Scotland v England - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Nice to see Mr. Gordon again, shame he wasn’t at his usual best.
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Joe Hart was back from Torino and now currently finds himself homeless. He has ‘no idea’ where he’ll be playing his football next season. And judging by his performance in the game, no-one else will either. He tried to explain why the wall didn’t move to block the first goal:

I asked my wall to jump but not excessively because people are clever now and they go underneath.

Really? And they’re going to understand that? I don’t even understand that and I’ve watched the replay. If the wall had been any more inert, rigor mortis would have set in - it was an absolute shambles.

One thing is for sure, Hart won’t be back at City. I think they’ve just signed Stephen Hawking to replace him.

But he better get a move on, because the window opens on July 1st, and a lot of players are already jostling for a change. As with most things, there’s a proper way to comport yourself during these uncertain times:

Being a Sunderland lad it’s a bit hard to take and it’ll always be hard to take.

Nice one Jordan - and there’s an improper way:

My daughter’s face has changed colour – it looks like she’s been living in a cave.

Apparently Nolito’s experiences with the Manchester weather have been less than satisfactory, and he’s angling for a move back to Spain but doesn’t want to upset City in the meantime:

I was just casually shopping for clothes for my wife in Seville,. I went to get a coffee and bumped into Sevilla’s director of football casually.

You can hardly blame him for being sociable…

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League
Which way to the nearest sunbed shop?
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku looks like being one of the biggest transfer deals over the summer. He’s decided where he wants to play, but is leaving the details to his agent. Smart move – his agent is Mino Raiola, the go-between who helped negotiate Paul Pogba’s £89 million move to Manchester United last summer.

It’s since turned out that Raiola not only acted as Pogba’s representative, but also acted on behalf of the selling club – Juventus, and the buying club – United. So, he was acting for Juventus to get the maximum price possible, whilst at the same time for United to get the lowest price available, and to obtain the best personal terms for Pogba from his client, United, who in turn would expect him to negotiate the deal down as much as possible.

And he must have been successful in all his ventures because he personally trousered £41 million from the venture. Now I ask you, in what world can such cock-eyed lunacy exist and prosper without restraint or investigation? OK, don’t answer that.

Belgium v Czech Republic - International Friendly
Will Lukaku be making his way to the red half of Manchester this summer?
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Meanwhile the big guns are already revving up for next season. Arsene Wenger is targeting the Premier League title (surely not?) after signing a new two year deal at the club. Neither Arsenal nor Wenger, 67, see this as definitely being his final contract. He’s going to have to go for quite a while yet to beat the record though – Ivor Powell has just retired as football coach at the University of Bath – at the age of 93.

Powell spent seventy years as a player and coach. During his playing career he set a record transfer fee of £17,500 in 1946, was capped 14 times by Wales and lined up alongside Sir Stanley Matthews at Blackpool. He worked with Don Revie at Leeds, joined the University of Bath in 1973 and famously took Team Bath to the first round of the FA Cup in 2002. He was awarded an MBE for services to sport in 2008.

Imagine Wenger at Arsenal for another 26 years. No, really, it’s not that difficult.

Man City are not to be outdone though. Their chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak says their ambition is to ‘win the quadruple’ (which I don’t really think is a ‘thing’) next season in what will be a ‘massive year’ for the club.

We have a great manager, we're all working behind him, supporting him. We are going to do our work this summer. The trajectory is right and I'm very optimistic.

I find it quite intimidating that City have a chairman that can use of the word ‘trajectory’ in a football context and he’s not referring to hoofing the ball into the car park. He’s going to be the man to have around when they have to dump Guardiola by Christmas because ‘the quadruple’ is going down the toilet.

Manchester City v Arsenal  - Premier League
Quadruple, quad, four, fourth.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Head of FIFA (and Sepp Blatter’s future cell-mate-in-waiting) Gianni Infantino was in South Korea this week to see the England U-20 win the World Cup, a fantastic achievement which seemed to receive almost no coverage whatsoever, and to discuss with the South Korean president the possibility of hosting the 2030 World Cup.

Apparently the plan is to invite North Korea to jointly host the tournament, thereby making them perhaps the only two people on the planet that don’t think the region will have been bombed back into the Stone Age by then.

And good news for those of you planning on attending the World Cup in Qatar but not knowing where it is – you can’t get in there anyway. The only land border to the whole country has been closed by Saudi Arabia, who have also blockaded Qatar's ports and banned use of their airspace, meaning Qatar is totally cut-off from the outside world. And Saudi has announced it’s going to stay like that ‘until they get their ball back’.