Ben Lowry: I once always wanted England to lose, now I want them to win
Northern Ireland seems to have more England football supporters than other non English parts of the British Isles.
There certainly seems to be higher support for England here than in Scotland, where there is barely any enthusiasm for the Three Lions, and perhaps even more than in Wales, which is very anglophobic in parts but much less so in the south of the country.
Many unionists in NI support England, yet even within that community there are high levels of ambivalence or even hostility to the players in white.
With regard to the Republic of Ireland, the former Irish diplomat Bobby McDonagh has written an article saying Ireland has found it harder to cheer England this summer, for reasons such as Brexit.
This suggests that the Republic has not always been hostile to English sporting success. This is not my recollection, and I remember well the mood in Lansdowne Road in the 1980s and 1990s watching Ireland playing rubgy, and the particular pleasure there was in beating England. Ireland beating England was the best result, but seeing Scotland on TV defeat them was good too.
My own boyhood joy at seeing England national teams being beaten persisted into adulthood, such as in the 1990 football world cup, when they reached the semis and seemed perilously close to victory and endless re-runs of the 1966 triumphalist spirit.
Later I was living in London when England was in the 1996 Euros and I remember sympathising with an article written by the Scottish Tory and (then) strong unionist Michael Gove, in which he said he felt a tinge of exclusion at living in the southeast of England amid such English nationalism.
Over the years my desire to see England lose began to fade and slowly turn into a degree of goodwill, and ultimately now a strong desire for them to win.
There are many reasons for this, including coming to realise that they are not the super confident nation that I assumed in my youth. In the sporting big league they are very much underdogs. It is ridiculous that they have not even been in a major soccer final for 55 years.
I have also come to dislike intensely the Celtic chippiness towards friendly England.
Yes they are far bigger than us and, like many big entities, they either ignore or look down on smaller ones. But they also, generally, have the magnanimity of strength, and do not even return the resentment they receive from the geographic fringes of these islands.
• Ben Lowry (@Benlowry2) is News Letter deputy editor
Other articles by Ben Lowry below, and beneath that information on how to subscribe to the News Letter:
• Ben Lowry July 3: The mild DUP response to the protocol will cause Boris little concern
• Ben Lowry June 26: Neither Dublin nor IRA have been put under any pressure on legacy
• Ben Lowry June 26: A slight sense of sadness as the days again begin to shorten
• Ben Lowry June 19: Somehow the appeasement of Sinn Fein got worse
• Ben Lowry May 22: Instead of ‘moving on’ from IRA funeral, we still need proper answers
• Ben Lowry May 22: If Joel Keys, 19, wants to help unionism he should get a law degree
• Ben Lowry May 15: Edwin Poots and Doug Beattie will offer two distinct shades of unionism
• Ben Lowry May 8: Formal UK ideas for an amnesty are almost exactly 20 years old
• Ben Lowry May 8: Let us hope that the brilliant Eoghan Harris keeps on writing
• Ben Lowry May 1: Unionism can’t just be about managing long-term defeat
• Ben Lowry April 17: DUP still has to choose between managing this disaster or total rejection of it
• Ben Lowry April 10: His enduring marriage to the Queen was key to our understanding of Prince Philip
• Ben Lowry Mar 20: We have made it through the worst of the dark, dreaded winter lockdown
• Ben Lowry Mar 20: MLAs lost control of abortion by rejecting modest law reform
• Ben Lowry Mar 13: Scotland tunnel isn’t fantasy, but something kids of today might see
• Ben Lowry Mar 6: The cost of victims’ pension has ballooned without explanation as to why
• Ben Lowry Feb 20: We still lack answers as to why IRA funeral got special treatment at Roselawn
• Ben Lowry Feb 13: Peter Robinson has long experience of what is and is not politically feasible
• Ben Lowry Jan 30: At last, clear reason for UK and unionists to stop being weak towards Ireland/EU
• Ben Lowry Jan 16: The Irish Sea border was imposed because UK knew unionists would take it
• Ben Lowry in 2020: Last night unionists celebrated a move towards Irish unity
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