Talking Point: This England team is hard not to like, so why root against them?
Watching England play Germany the other week, I found myself giving an involuntary fist pump when Raheem Sterling scored the first of his team’s goals in a famous 2-0 victory.
Like many Scots, I grew up watching the national team play England in regular home internationals, enduring the one-sided punditry of former Tartan Army hate figure Jimmy Hill.
I remember Euro 96 as my coming-of-age as a Scotland fan, watching the side play well only to lose to England and ultimately exit the tournament on goals scored.
In the mid-90s, Baddiel and Skinner’s Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) sounded arrogant and presumptuous to my Scottish ears.
But things change.
In the quarter of a decade since the song was released, Scotland has qualified for just two major tournaments and one of those was in 1998.
England, too, have had their ups and downs, reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018, but otherwise largely underachieving.
Personally, I struggle to summon up anything approaching antipathy towards the English national football team, and that feels healthy.
Maybe it’s the impact of more than 20 years of devolution or the growing feeling of confidence around the men’s national team and Scottish sport in general, but it no longer feels necessary to define ourselves by a rivalry with our nearest neighbour.
Fans of both sides arrive at Wembley ahead of the game between England and Scotland
It’s hard not to like a team which counts Sterling among its members, a young man who has endured racism from the stands and intrusion from sections of the tabloid press, yet has seemingly used that adversity to make him a better player.
And it’s hard not to like a team that includes Harry Kane, who stooped to score a diving header against the Germans wearing a captain’s armband in the colours of Pride.
A team that includes Marcus Rashford, who twice took on the UK Government over its refusal to provide school meals out of term time and scored back-to-back victories.
And a team led by Gareth Southgate, a manager who spoke eloquently of his players’ desire to take a knee against racism and in defiance of those who said they would boo the gesture.
Sure, the media coverage will be insufferable, but can you imagine what it would be like if Scotland won?
Why shouldn’t the likes of Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand eulogise about their team if they pull off a historic victory in the final?
From my point of view, I’d rather listen to that than hear another miserable Scot moan about the BBC’s “biased” coverage.
Anyone desperately looking for a crumb of comfort can hold onto the fact that, should England be crowned champions, there will only be one team they failed to beat on the way to that historic sporting achievement – Scotland.