Today I saw this front page from The Sun, (Headline ‘BEST BAR NONE’ 05/07/2021) and wondered: where do you even start with this?
So let’s try.
Firstly, you look at front pages like this and think: “aye, but who is this for? It’s like the gammon press are, for an ageing and rapidly diminishing readership, deliberately or not, framing the narrative through the prism of a culture and a UK dynamic that doesn’t exist, and hasn’t for a number of years (because of many things, not least that devolution has taken a lot of heat out of Scotland’s relationship with its neighbours). We don’t feel as strongly that we’re in bed with an elephant any more. That’s what struck me when I saw wee Billy Gilmour having a great blether with his friend and Chelsea teammate Mason Mount after the game at Wembley. And the thing is, it wasn’t remotely staged or contrived – these guys just totally “get” it.
And the other things the England squad embody – diversity, an enquiring mind, a social conscience, hinterland – point to something that the German teams with their college degrees have known for decades. These things make you better.
Got me thinking, strangely, of Rory McIlroy, because there’s been some debate about his perceived lack of focus (concentrate on the golf, son) and how that might be contributing to his now seven year major drought. Rory refutes that and is actually trying to become that more rounded human being as he believes that will allow him to play his best golf. And he’ll probably be proved correct.
I think that is probably true for all of us. The received wisdom is that I’d run a better business if I spent less time on the golf course or reading my crime novels or listening to Jason Isbell records or thinking about Scotland’s independence.
But, 1) life would be unbearably shite without those things and 2) I wouldn’t be any better at my job.
Finally, for all the other great characteristics of the decent and humble Southgate, he reminds me a bit of Jurgen Klopp or Gerard Houllier at Liverpool in that he genuinely understands that everything connects and that his agency goes way beyond whether or not to start Jack Grealish. And it takes some serious courage to ignore all that noise. Fair play to him for continuing to do so.
It’s my one – albeit small – gripe with Stevie Clarke. Nicola Sturgeon apart, the Scotland manager is the biggest job going. And while I understand there will be reasons for not doing so, he ought to live primarily in Scotland. I’d much rather Kate Forbes got a chunk of his money and spent it wisely rather than those disaster capitalists in London, particularly as the SFA (and to some extent, us) pay his wages.
So – I used to be the guy who’d be putting up the Denmark emojis, but as they say in Belfast? Get over yersel. I cannae be bothered. I don’t truly believe it. Yes, if England win we’ll get royalty and Boris and other assorted charlatans and tiresome bandwagon jumpers for a few days, but to be honest young folk – wherever they are – will see that coming a mile off and the triumph of a group of genuinely good people should be a source of deeper, more genuine pride for everyone. All the spitfire emojis in the world don’t stand a chance against decency, tolerance and a deeper truth.
It goes without saying that there’s a long way to go. There are historic, systemic structures and privileges that will keep investing power to monied Etonians, gammons, Morningside lawyers and most of all Middle England for a long time to come. But progress isn’t linear. It zigs and it zags, but it arcs ultimately upwards. The deeply reactionary forces behind these headlines will soon be on the losing side forever, and my weans, or at least theirs, will look at front pages like these from an ancient and different era – with utter bewilderment. You can’t hold back the tide forever, and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to a small group of good people strongly suggests that the battle for hearts and minds strongly favours the good guys.
Facts are chiels that winna ding.
I’ll meet you further on up the road.