An English Girl In Scotland: Anyone But England

Carley's An English Girl In Scotland

As I’ve mentioned before, I am an English girl in Scotland – and whilst most of the time, living in Scotland is almost exactly like living in England, there are a few big differences. Today, I want to write about something which I had absolutely no experience of before I moved here; the anger, bitterness and pure disdain that Scots express… towards the England national football team.

 I love football. I grew up in a family of mixed footballing allegiances – my brother chose Liverpool FC out of the blue as his team, my parents are West Ham fans to this day, and my grandfather used to take my cousins and I to see Leighton Orient play too – and the only time we were all united in our support was when the England national team played.

Four children with Kevin Keegan, the old England football / soccer team manager, at old Wemblt Stadium
My cousins and I met Kevin Keegan when he was the England team manager on a tour of the old Wembley stadium.

So yeah, football was always important to me; but watching the England team, my national team, that was when my feelings were strongest. This was the team that united my family, united the country. I remember the time I most vividly remember seeing England play – the England vs Germnany World Cup qualifier where my team beat the Germans 5-1. (Do you remember that game? 6 goals, England going a goal down only then to get five back – and even Heskey scored!) It was that day that I realised that I might follow other teams in my lifetime, but it’d always be England that I cheered on in any big, international tournament.

Which is why I still find the attitude of (the vast majority, but not all, I will concede) the Scottish people in regards to the England football team so shocking. Back in 2010, during the last World Cup, I was in St Andrews for the tournament. It was the first time I’d been in Scotland for an international football tournament, and I couldn’t believe the Scottish attitude. I expected apathy; perhaps even a little bitterness – but at the same time, I hoped that at least a few Scots would support the England team. I mean, wouldn’t you?

But I wasn’t expecting how angry, how crazy the Scots can be. Rather than supporting the team of their neighbour when their national team didn’t make it into the finals of the tournament, I was confronted by a three letter acronym – A.B.E. Anyone But England. It was on t-shirts, on banners, in the newspapers. It was a term banded around by my contemporaries, by my colleagues, by the customers at work. ‘Who are you going to support?’

‘Anyone but England!’ 

text on a t-shirt - anti-England football team

I found, and continue to find this devastating. Yes, I was born and brought up in England, and I support the England football team – because that’s because it was brought up with. I was also brought up watching Wimbledon and eating home-grown strawberries and getting sunburn on the first day of summer; I consider myself British. I supported Tim Henman in tennis, and now I follow Andy Murray happily. Similarly, I now have a Scottish football team. And if Scotland were in an international football tournament, I would support them right up to the day they were playing England. And if England weren’t in the tournament? I’d support Scotland through every game.

I never expected the Scots to be so vehement in their dislike hatred of the England football team. It shocks me, because I (and I believe most English people) see Scotland and the Scottish people as a positive relation; Scotland is England’s neighbour, part of the UK, an ally. I still don’t understand the hatred and the disdain towards the England national team; although maybe it’s just bitterness that the Scotland national team don’t usually get through to the finals. I guess really, hearing people shout out ‘A.B.E!’  just hurts me, feels like a blow to my background, my heritage.

people jumping off the pier in summer at St Andrews, Scotland
Pier Jumping, the day that England were knocked out of the World Cup 2010.

I can remember the day that England crashed out of the 2010 World Cup tournament – I’d been at work. It was painfully hot, and I was working in the kitchen. When my shift finished, I headed out to the St Andrews Pier to complete another St Andrews tradition – the pier jump. Eventually, I made my way to the Students’ Association to watch the match (another England – Germany showdown) in a large, darkened room. I didn’t stay to watch the end of England’s defeat (4-1), but ended up sat in the car park, chain smoking cigarettes and fighting an urge to cry. Before the final whistle blew, I’d been joined by a boy I didn’t know who couldn’t watch the final moments either, before shouting and cheering drunk Scottish boys came pouring out of the building to celebrate. I’ve never felt as far from home as I did that day. I’ve never felt so alienated either.

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10 Comment

  1. […] wrote a piece a few days ago, about being an England fan, and the experiences that  come her way due to being […]

  2. Hi,

    I have lived near Fort William for nine years and own a small hotel eight miles out of town. You have put into words, very eloquently, exactly what it’s like to be English and live in Scotland, especially during a major sporting event. It can be very distressing and causes great hurt. Hard to witness the bile and bitterness that spews forth without feeling saddened and hurt.

    1. Carley says: Reply

      Hi Luke,

      It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person who feels this way – it’s often a double-blow, as not only do I experience a great deal of negativity about the English sports-people from my Scottish colleagues and neighbours, but I also have the heartbreak of seeing them lose so often! I’m lucky in that, of recent times, my wonderful girlfriend has begun to realise how hurtful it is, and she ‘holds her tongue’ more often than not – but I will admit, I would never go to watch an England game in the pub up here. I just wonder if Scots in England feel the same way?!


  3. Adamski says: Reply

    I’m tempted to say to you and the guy who replied “dry your eyes” or “build a bridge” or similar. But I’ll try and be constructive.
    I think it’s very natural to have a certain disregard for a larger neighbour, particularly when the smaller neighbour is subject to the huge media build up and hype about a team they really don’t care about.
    Imagine if you lived in New Zealand and all you got was Australian TV, going on and on rather arrogantly, about how they were going to win the cricket and about every tiny detail of their star players lives.
    After a time you’d get resentful, and probably you’d start to think “I hope those f*ckers fall flat on their a*ses” lol.
    Basically, that’s why I think it is how it is. 99% of Scottish people like English folk generally, but they don’t like your sports teams, because they know that if you ever did win something, it’s all they’d hear about for the next 40 years.

    1. Carley says: Reply

      Hi Adam,

      I’m glad you didn’t reply with ‘dry your eyes’ – I think it’d prove my point!

      I completely agree with you that there is far too much of a media focus on ALL English sports teams in Scotland, and I honestly believe that were this not the case, fewer Scots would become so enraged at the English and English sports teams. Even my other half (Scottish through and through) reluctantly concedes that it’s not the English football team she has issue with – it’s the newspapers and commentators and magazines that can’t help but gush about how wonderful England are and this year will be the next ’66. I think even we English are aware that our football team are very unlikely to win anything 99% of the time – not that that stops me hoping and wishing!

      My personal difficultly comes from how I have grown up with a lot of footballing rivalry – from West Ham vs. Millwall matches which were the news of my childhood, through to the Old Firm derby’s I watch through my fingers today. Whilst I support my team to the final whistle, I can also concede when another team have been a good / better side, and it is this which means I am so often disappointed with Scottish football fans – it feels unsporting, to hate a neighbouring team just because of their past.

      I don’t know – were it the other way round, were Scotland the team who had won the World Cup 46 years ago (22 years before I was born, may I add!), maybe I would feel differently – but I really, really hope that I would be able to congratulate them on a job well done.


  4. Cruixer says: Reply

    Hi Carley,
    I stumbled upon this blog by accident, possibly a bit late to reply but here goes. Adamski made a good attempt at explaining why many Scots feel this way but I don’t think that many English people will ever understand because they are not prepared to, or perhaps not able to put themselves in our position. English people always use the example of us all being British, and we support Scotland etc etc, but thats a pretty easy position to take when you are the country that sets the Agenda and controls the media etc.

    The thing that makes this hardest to explain is that its not just one thing, or even the same combination of things for everyone but for some examples of things that irk different people how about some examples. English and British being used as though they are the same thing, the Bank of ‘England’ is the state bank, the Church of ‘England’ is the state Church, constant condescension from English sports presenters in relation to Scottish football, English history being presented as if it is British History (Henry VIII, Elizabeth II, 1066) – I could go on forever.

    Of course a lot of this has nothing to do with sport but football becomes an outlet for a lot of other issues. Personally I don’t go in for the anyone but England thing but I wouldn’t support them either, perhaps one day if Scotland and England are neighbours on equal terms we might see Scotland cheering on English football teams.

    1. Carley says: Reply

      Hi Cruixer,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful comment… (I have refused to publish a few comments on this post because they were simply spouting abuse.)

      I think that the main reason that I wrote this post was because as an English girl in Scotland, I was genuinely surprised at how anti-English national team some Scots were. I hadn’t expected it, and I was surprised when I experienced it. I would guess that most English people would feel the same. Now, with a Scottish girlfriend, and a better understanding of Scottish history (which I knew very little about before moving here, as you’re probably not surprised to hear!) I am far more respectful of the Scottish viewpoint, even if it still makes me wince.

      I completely agree with the fact that a lot needs to change in order for England and Scotland to be equal neighbours. I have come to sadly accept that I’m unlikely to ever be able to watch England football matches here in Scotland; not because I couldn’t find a place showing them, but because of the intense disrespect shown to anyone supporting England there. I’m not prepared to put myself in that situation.

      To be honest, the hardest thing for me is that I live in Scotland because of my other half and my job, and that sadly, because of the bitterness to English people I experience from some (but not all) Scots, I can’t imagine living here forever; I feel like I’m not welcome here because of where I was born.

  5. I lived for 18 years of my life being raised in England and never had any ill feelings towards Scottish people or Scotland as a country…then I moved to Stirling for university and that all changed!

    Before I left that summer people would ask me where I was going and I’d say Stirling and people would laugh and joke and say ‘you know Scottish people hate English people’ and I’d shrug it off and say yeah yeah…but then after arriving in Stirling I discovered they really did.
    It was the worst year of my life. I had to sit in lectures where everyone including the lecturer would be talking about how much they hated English people! The girls who I shared a flat with in my halls of residence told me about 3 months in that although they’d hated me at first because I was English they’d actually discovered I was quite nice!
    I would have random people on campus I didn’t even know but who knew I was English come up to me and tell me that my ancestors were involved in killing William Wallace! It was ridiculous! Aside from the fact that my mom is South African and my dad Irish so actually none of my ancestors were involved anyway!
    I knew that older generations would harbour ill feelings towards the English but was shocked that these 18 and 19 year olds would not even consider talking to me based on the fact that I was born in England.
    Add into the mix that I’m probably the least Patriotic person you could meet, probably due to not being raised by English parents and having developed an unhealthy obsession with America in my early teens it’s not like I ever walked around saying how fantastic England was or how it’s the best country ever, yet people would bully and insult me for being an ‘arrogant English person’ when literally that couldn’t be further from the truth!
    It was really upsetting, I worked part time at pizza hut – all the staff were Scottish and would play pranks on me, purposely mess up my orders and then say that I had done it wrong, they were constantly trying to get me in trouble with the manager and I even had one guy I worked with one day tell me that he quite liked me and if I wasn’t English he’d probably go out with me, I laughed thinking he was joking but then realised he was deadly serious!
    It was a horrible and rude awakening for me, in a country that I had been so excited to go and live in that I thought would be such a fun adventure and yet it went so horribly wrong. I transferred after my first year back to a university in England because I had become seriously depressed and couldn’t stay.

    I met my husband the summer after and used to share my Stirling stories with him and I know he thought I was being over dramatic and it couldn’t really have been that bad. 3 weeks ago we moved to Glasgow, we’re here for a year for my husband’s job. I wasn’t thrilled about coming back but thought Glasgow is a more cosmopolitan city, and maybe Stirling was just a crazy patriotic pocket and things would be better but no I’ve found Scottish people to be just as I remembered them and even my husband (who is actually South African but moved to England as a teenager and has an English accent) has been seriously shocked at some of the unkind treatment we have already received.

    A man came up to him in the street this week and started trying to explain why it’s okay and acceptable for the Scots to hate the English after what we did to them. To try and justify his opinions he said to my husband ‘what is the first thing you think of when you think of Germany’. My husband said bratwurst! I’m guessing he wanted him to say the persecution, but we don’t live in the past. We can’t change the things that happened decades, and centuries ago so why can’t Scottish people just move on already and get over it!

    Sorry, didn’t mean for this to turn out to be such an essay!

  6. Cam says: Reply

    Hello Carley, There isn’t much that can be said that hasn’t already been said regarding how some Scots act and react to England. I have found myself being extremely annoyed at the perceived bias that appears to be shown by London based pundits and presenters during big games. I have even found myself willing England to lose as a result, but the idea that this has the affect on fellow human beings like yourself is sobering. I do not believe for one minute that the majority of Scots hold a hatred for English people, but there are issues with ‘big nation-Small nation politics that always bring out the embittered andspiteful elements in some parts of our society. I think some people think that it is ‘banter’ but over time this must (I would imagine) become hurtful to people who are on the receiving end. As one human being to another, I hope that your experience has improved over time. Scots are proud, stubborn and obstinate, but I believe the majority put human beings and their feelings first. Honest.

  7. Billitene says: Reply

    This me be quite long haha.

    I am a Scotsman, born and bred in the northeast of Scotland. My fiancée was born in Scotland to parents from Swindon, and I have a very good relationship with the in laws, so that proves I don’t hate the English. But what I do hate is how we Scottish football fans have the achievements of the England football team rubbed in our faces, especially in the buildup to a major finals in which England will be participating.

    I love the World Cup and so does every other football fan in Scotland. Even though we never get to participate we still enjoy it as much as anyone else. But as Adamski said for us, we share the same news and media coverage as England. We would be impartial to England winning competitions, might even support them, if the media did not so persistently go on and on and on and on about it when they do well. The fact that there are repeated references to ’66 and the England team by commentators (even during games where England aren’t playing!) 49 years after the event, makes me dread what it would be like for us, the Welsh and the Northern Irish if it were to happen now. We would be bombarded with it on all forms of media for years. The apparent assumption by various media outlets that everyone watching or reading is an England fan strikes me as downright ignorant and a blatant disregard for sports fans outside England.

    I vividly remember the hype and buildup to England’s campaign in South Africa 2010. Radio 1 was always on in my workplace. The remix of Tears for Fears’ shout (England’s song for the World Cup that year) and Three Lions were never off the radio and the DJ’s would never stop talking about it. We find this especially irritating when our country will not be going. It is like rubbing salt in the wound. One day Three Lions prompted a complaint from a Scottish Listener, who said something like “What are we listening to this for. Isn’t this supposed to be national radio? not English radio”. To this Christ Moyles said something to the effect of “Scottish people might as well stop listening to my show until after the World Cup is over, because it is all going to be about England”. It is things like this, an apparent superiority complex, that fuel our desire for the England team to fail. The attitude of the media when England are going to a major finals is all wrong. The attitude is not “We are lucky to have gotten here, now we are going to do the best we can”. The coverage is never humble. It is always “This is our time. We have the team that is going to win it!”

    If I were English, of course I’d want England to do well. Every football fan has the right to want their country to do well, but when you’re the tiny neighbour of this big country that rules you, you will inevitably grudge their every sporting success when it gets rubbed in so hard.

    I attended download festival in 2010. It was the night England was playing the USA. The hype was at its height. In the crowd when some people figured out I was Scottish they started going “ENGERLAND! ENGERLAND!” in my face. The score was displayed on a board above one of the stages. Shortly after kick off it read England 1-0 USA. I thought “Oh God, here we go”. But later on it changed. It now read England 1-1 USA. In the light of the massive buildup which had annoyed us Scottish fans so much, this was quite exquisite.
    When I returned home from the festival it was England v Algeria. Judging by the tone of news and radio presenters, they seemed to believe England had won this game before it had even started. I watched the game at a friend’s house with him and his Mother. As you would expect, we were hoping Algeria would win. My friend’s Mother put it perfectly. She said “They expect all of us to get behind them”. In the end the result was another draw, and England fans were booing all around the stadium, which resulted in the now infamous rant by Wayne Rooney. England undeservedly did progress to the next round, but the team they came up against just had to be Germany! A controversial match with a goal by Lampard that was not given. This was an injustice, but as a Scottish fan, I and lots of others I know couldn’t help but feel this was Karma for Geoff Hurst’s Wembley goal. England came out of the World Cup on the back of a 4-1 defeat at the hands of who they see as their biggest rivals. For us outside observers, England going out of the World Cup was a relief and a massive reality check for everyone who had so boldly said England were going to win it.

    I may also add that when Scotland played England in 2013, defeat didn’t hurt me too much because Scotland put on a great performance, going ahead twice. Final result was England 3-2 Scotland, England winning through two lucky corners. The media coverage was not too loudmouthed about England’s win, because they knew it was far from their greatest performance. The game between us and England last November was entirely different story. The referendum had just passed and everyone was seething from the media’s disgraceful coverage of the Yes side. A win over England at football would have made a sort of sweet revenge after everything that had happened. But as it turned out, Scotland did not turn up, putting in a performance that did not match England’s and we lost 3-1. I was devastated. I turned to Facebook afterwards and found honest comments from Scots saying things like “Enlgand were better, and the better team deserved to win”. Then I found a comment from an English person saying something like “Teaching those jock b******s a lesson”. Proof that there are English out there who dislike us and our football team too.
    Even while watching the England V France game in the women’s World Cup, after 10 minutes the commentary started to annoy me.

    In conclusion, I will be happy to befriend anyone of any nationality, and soon I will be tied to an English family through marriage. But by principle I won’t support the England team due to media bias and the apparent superiority complex displayed by English media.

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