IS it churlish to support anyone but England in the World Cup? My customised Sweden shirt’s all ready for the game (a present received 10 years ago) but it still feels a wee bit mean. How do English folk living here feel about the automatic support for anyone but their team? Of course football commentators are irritating, but there’s nothing new there. Should we be able to rise above it or is such a lofty disconnect simply not possible or even authentic?

As a lass born in Wolverhampton, I should be torn. But my formative years were spent with Highland Scots parents in Belfast, so I feel no emotional connection to the country of my birth. As a member of a small nation my support transfers effortlessly on to other small nations once Scotland is out of the picture – so much so (heresy alert) that I’m not sure who I’d support if we were pitched against the ultra-tiny Faroe Islands. But is that “wee country/underdog” identification something to applaud or to get over?

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You don’t need to be a Buddhist to spot the attachment issues at play when folk actually need to see England lose. They sit glued to each performance, watching the England team as keenly as native supporters -- their blood pressure rising in equal but opposite tempo as each move unfolds. Rabbie Burns had a phrase for this: “nursing your wrath to keep it warm”. It speaks of disempowerment and grumbling, passive resentment and it isnae healthy. As Scotland finds its new place in the North Atlantic and the league of small, energy-rich European states, our age-old enmity with England will become utterly irrelevant. The good news is it’s already fairly boring. But we aren’t entirely uninterested in the fate of our nearest neighbour. Not yet.

Scots are on the long trip to maturity and self-confidence experienced by the Irish, who were happy to recruit Big Geordie Jack Charlton as team manager in 1986 to get their national side out of the doldrums. Jackie was fairly explicit: “You want me to compete with the best in the world, I’ve got to have the f*****g best in the world. And it’s not here in Ireland, so I’ve got to go to England.” As one online site put it: “Big Jack’s ‘Find Another Irishman’ policy via the Granny rule was worked to the Mrs Brown bone.”

The move was so characteristically opportunistic, it had Irish written all over it. Of course, our Celtic cousins also had half a century of political independence behind them at the time, so they could afford to be relaxed about football – especially since the really big team games in Ireland have always been in their own indigenous sports. Maybe, one day after independence, Scots will support any team from the British Isles in the same way Norwegians are now supporting Sweden – even though the Swedes ruled Norway until 1905. One day, football and the constitutional question in Scotland will be equally disconnected – and the team we support as passive spectators will be much less important than the game we actually play ourselves.

That’s a wee way off. But already folk can see preoccupation with the fate of the English football team is a bit sad – a pretty good definition of co-dependency in fact, because we need them to stay dominant and domineering so we can stay virtuous, plucky little underdogs. Setting the English up as our automatic enemy doesn’t help us walk away from the Union mindset or its relentless pecking order. And yet like a packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes scoffed with cold milk late at night – it’s almost irresistible.

Of course, there are very good reasons for failing to jump to the support of the England team and Twitter is full of them. One Scotland fan said: “Ask a Dutch person how much he supports Germany. Or a Pole. Or a Belgian how much they support France. Canadians rooting for USA? And now Argentina are out – do they want Brazil to win the World Cup? Not a chance.” That’s true.

But most of the antipathy relates to the BBC and ITV commentary teams (and the network news programmes which insist “the whole country cheered”) rather than the actual boys in red themselves.

As another Scotland fan commented online: “The England team have presented themselves in a sensible, humble and professional way. Their worst enemy is the media, and if I was England manager I’d ban the team from watching TV or reading papers till the end of the World Cup.”

Whether he’s done that or not, Gareth Southgate is clearly an unusually nice guy for a football manager who took time to console the Colombian player after he missed Tuesday night’s spot kick. Of course, if England fail to get to the finals, the tabloids will tear Southgate apart, not just because that’s their tradition but also because an unhealthy connection is brewing between England’s footballing resurgence and its determination to pursue a self-harming and Union-ending Brexit over a groundless belief in it’s own special status.

Up till now there’s been little overt linkage between England’s two national projects – except ironically by the SNP whose action in the Commons on Tuesday night once again focused attention on Scotland’s democratic deficit by forcing votes just as England was 1-0 up against Colombia. But the connection will soon be made by the tabloids if England (population 54 million) beats Sweden (population 9 million) as they clearly expect.

Anticipating an explosion of unlovely, self-congratulatory remarks about taking back control, day and night on news, entertainment and sport – Scots are maybe getting their retaliation in first by giving England the collective cold shoulder.

As one Scotland fan put it: “I wish England’s team and fans well, but I’m sick of watching sport (and the world in general) through the eyes of another country. The English media is overwhelming, and for that reason alone I’ll support ABE.”

Another said: “We should be able to support who we want but the expectation that we should all ‘naturally’ want to support England is part of the problem plus with the likes of Neville saying it was good to see the other team suffer because ‘we’ had suffered too much just puts me off.”

These remarks get to the heart of the matter.

I’d guess few English football commentators would expect Catalans to be automatic and whole-hearted supporters of the Spanish team – even though Catalans like Gerard Pique are in the national squad. But those same journalists expect automatic support from other parts of the UK for an English not a British team. It’s another version of that maddening tendency to confuse England and Britain. The same day that the whole UK was presumed to be celebrating England’s win, the normally reliable Independent newspaper published an exclusive story headlined: “Number of UK prison officers resigning soars amid increasing levels of violence and self-harm.” Which is fine, except the statistics related only to England and Wales. And despite alerting the reporter, no-one has corrected the mistake.

Well, who cares?

This is what irks. It’s not a British team competing in Russia, it is an English one. It wasn’t Britain that won the World Cup in 1966, it was England. It would be so refreshing if broadcasters could understand the importance of this distinction and allow Englishmen and women to enjoy their own sporting success without expecting fake enthusiasm from neighbours. 

But since that probably isn’t going to happen, it leaves Scots with a wee dilemma. Legendary union activist Jimmy Reid told a Clyde shipyard sit-in in the 1970s there would be “no hooliganism, no vandalism and nae bevvying”. Maybe for the rest of England’s World Cup campaign, we could add “nae nasty or noisy gloating” when there are New Scots about who support the England team.

Or to put it another way: Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.

And wear your Sweden tops quietly.