Club V Country - 23/11/14

May 24, 2017

A very weird thing happened as the first half of the Auld Enemy clash was drawing to a close last Tuesday night. I felt this urge to avert from my eyes from the screen stand up and wander over to the kitchen sink and start washing the dirty plates from my curry dish from earlier.That isn’t a knock on the good job Chesney is carrying out with the national side but rather another indication that I am never going to have the same connection with the national side than I will with the men in maroon.

My hate/apathetic affair with Scotland dates back to the andy roxburgh days. Even as a child I found myself scratching my head as my hero John Robertson would consistently be snubbed in favour of Brian McClair & Graham Sharp, two very experienced top english league players but both of whom had failed to reach the same heights for their country. Craig Brown would take over soon after but the same train of thought applied when picking players. Tosh Mckinlay and Darren Jackson were two great examples of players playing during the peak of their careers in Edinburgh but both were ignored for international recognition until Celtic came calling.

I attended a Scotland Russia match at Hampden in 1995 with my local boys club. The match ended 1-1 with Scott Booth firing home for the Scots. It was a nice experience travelling through to Hampden on a dark floodlit Wednesday night but I found myself zoning in and out of the game. A couple of u-21’s matches at Easter Road followed the next year but again I didn’t experience the excitment or the knots in my stomach that come hand in hand with watching Hearts play anyone from Rangers to Alloa.

For the next few years I stuck to watching games on the box with my dad but I seemed to find more joy in being negative towards the players I disliked than showing any backing for the team. Childish I know but as a teenager all i cared about was Hearts and in my eyes no other team or player got a look in.

And then September 2007 happened. It was Friday night and my mate phoned with the offer of a free ticket for the Scotland Lithuania match the next day. With a few cheeky coronas consumed I said “sure why not”. I enjoyed the train through and had a few jars in the city centre before heading to Hampden for the game. The Atmosphere in the ground was decent. Not a fan of the majority of the tartan army back catalogue but to be fair they were doing their best to get the team pumped up as they walked out onto the pitch. It was only when the players graced the park that I realised i had more of a connection with the men in yellow over the men in blue. Chesney, Miko, Janny just a few of the names on the opposition teamsheet that I had become accustomed to cheering on every Saturday. Scotland on the otherhand had such figures of hate such as Garry O’connor & elbows McCulloch in their ranks. Going by the reaction to the Lithuanian national anthem I was not the only one who had recognised some of the lithuanian players.

The match was played at a decent pace and Scotland had went in at half time a goal to the good through a typical Kris Boyd finish but lithuania were to make a change at half time with Miko coming on to try and stretch the Scotland backline. He started brightly taking every opportunity to get one on one with Alan Hutton. Then came the moment that would lead to years of Xenophobic and bile filled journalistic impartiality from some members of our respected media. Miko would weave into the box before falling down at the feet of Darren Fletcher. The penalty was given and everyone was stunned. It was now 1-1 and the atmosphere was starting to turn nasty. Now no one can stand up for what Miko did to claim the penalty. It was a dive and such behaviour should always be frowned upon but it seemed to pass everyone in the grounds attention that only a few minutes later would Garry O’connor fall to the deck under no pressure from the Lithuanian defender. An equally cheap attempt at gaining an advantage that seemed to be deemed  not noteworthy in any of the Sunday papers. I seemed to take it upon myself to take on the post of defence lawyer of Miko on the train coming from a match that Scotland would eventually win 3-1.

For a few years after that match, the majority of column inches related to Hearts seemed to focus on poking fun at our eccentric owner and taking cheap shots at some of the players. Such behaviour only seemed to push me further away from taking an interest in the national side. Thankfully things have calmed a little since those days but I guess I’m past saving now. I’m a proud Scot but deep down I feel like an Edinburgh lad at heart. Maybe those feelings above all the bitter memories are what fuels my apathy for international weekends. Talking about the fortunes of Hearts and Hibs tickles my football G-spot more than debating the merits of the latest Scotland squad i guess.

Well that’s my story. How do others feel about this topic. Please feel free to leave your comments below.