Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Forget petty local rivalries, England is team to support

I think it was the allegation/rumour that Sir Alex Ferguson is offering advice to the United States camp that brought it to mind. ‘Scots’ generally seem to have a major problem ‘supporting’ England in tournaments and it’s even more difficult, it seems, when they’re not there themselves.

My old friend Denis Law played golf on the day of the 1966 World Cup final rather than show any interest in how England got on. He’d have rooted for Germany!

I’d have loved Northern Ireland to have qualified for South Africa. I was sick too, later, when the Republic were robbed by the cheating of Thierry Henry and I would happily have nailed colours to the masts of Scotland or Wales had either of them qualified.

As it is, I stand, a proud Northern Irishman, squarely behind England. Is that a feeling shared, I wonder, elsewhere in the British Isles.

You’ll read this column, presumably, because you’re fascinated by English football and, in particular, the Premier League.

You’ll have cheered on Linfield or Cliftonville with one ear on how United, Liverpool or Chelsea (or some other club!) got on.

You may even, as so many do, have been on a ferry or a plane to go to a game in England. I wasn’t that lucky as a kid in Belfast but I’d have loved to.

So, will you be supporting England in June? Surely, it’s irrational not to? If you’re besotted by Gerrard, Lampard or Rooney you’ll want them to do well in South Africa, won’t you? But then I think of what some ‘England fans’ did the other night.

Honestly, I am heartily sick to death talking about John Terry whether it’s about his non-relationship with Wayne Bridge or the fact that many ‘supporters’ chose to boo their former international captain at Wembley.

However, I don’t hold with anyone that boos their own players, whether it’s at club or international level.

Ashley Cole is, in my view, just as reprehensible a character as his Chelsea colleague but, a couple of years ago, I railed against those booing the full back after an error he’d made in an England game. Did they think he did it deliberately?

I chose to say nothing on the booing, and it was considerable, during the Egyptian game.

Deep down — call me a hypocrite if you want — I thought Terry had earned a little ‘discomfort’.

But, what is the point? If supporters deliberately set out to upset players, ultimately they’ll suffer just as much as the individual and the team. I think they should wise up.

And I honestly hope, south as well as north of the Irish border, that people get behind England.

In June and July, think of them as ‘your’ team. In August, everyone can revert to normal!

Belfast Telegraph

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