Thursday, July 01, 2010

Scotland and England: Failing Together

Craig Brown thinks Scotland would have progressed at least as far as England at the World Cup if they had qualified for the finals this summer.

"Having seen the England games, I genuinely believe that," said the Motherwell manager.

"Had Scotland been there, we would have done at least as well with the team we have at the moment and the manager we have, Craig Levein."
I commented on an article about this over on Inside Left.

It is, frankly, a load of codswallop.

Leave aside Craig crediting this Scotland squad, and their untried manager, with more ability than they have yet proved themselves to possess.

And we'll also have to ignore the basic flaw of this theory. If we were in South Africa George Burley would still be our manager.

But he's right that there are teams in South Africa who haven't looked great. And there are teams ranked below us in the world rankings (although I don't believe the world rankings are an indicator of anything at all).

Unfortunately Craig ignores history.

When we reach the big tournaments we fail. We might have hard luck stories and we might have felt cheated in the past but we fail.

Eight times we've failed to get past round one.

Much mockery of England and their players from Scotland after the German rampage on Sunday.

But I believe the English are victims of a British disease. We're not immune.

We share a footballing heritage. We're both proud of that and it leads both nations to expect great things.

England have more players than us, a more glamorous and successful domestic game and qualify for big tournaments more often.

So our aspirations and ambitions diverge. They expect to be a top four nation. We imagine we could reach the last 16 or even the last eight.

The reality: twice in 13 attempts have England reached the last four. Never in eight attempts have Scotland made it beyond the first round.

Our consistency lies in our ability to underwhelm. Both Scotland and England have taken talented squads to big tournaments but the results rarely reflect that.

Something goes wrong. Is it technical? Is it psychological?

It's probably a combination of both.

So sorry, Craig. You're wrong. England's exit was actually pretty consistent with their record. There's absolutely no evidence that we would have been ready to better our record.

There are a lot of things that divide us. But when we're not embroiled in bringing The Jocks and The Geordies to life we might see that there's even more that binds us.

And sadly, in international football, our propensity towards being crap is our most enduring bond of all.

> England should do better because they're bigger than Scotland? Yes. And they do. But in Slovakia, Uruguay and Paraguay we saw three teams with similar or smaller populations to our own make the last 16 or better. Being small is a handy excuse but it's not a good enough reason for our failings of the past few years.