This Friday sees two of sport’s (and history’s) fiercest foes facing off against one another in an all-important World Cup qualifier. It’s England Vs. Scotland. The Three Lions are unbeaten and, although not impressing hugely so far, will be looking to maintain their decent start with a view to topping the group. Scotland, for their part, are fighting to keep their hopes of a qualification place alive. Wembley Stadium is going to be a tense place come Friday night.
Whether it be the wily operator Gordon Strachan or the relatively inexperienced Gareth Southgate grinning the widest come 10pm, we don’t know. But whoever wins the British Derby will have lifted the spirits of an entire nation.
Sure, England might have the slightly more impressive history football-wise, but who can claim a superior overall sporting heritage and pedigree? Well, it’s tight. Let’s run through which sport each country is best at and see how they stack up…
Scottish cricket has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and whereas ‘the Scottish cricket team’ might have sounded like a punchline to some corny joke not long back, now? It’s pretty respectable. But there is no comparing the small recent achievements and progress by the Scots with what England have done on the world stage.
The French may contest it, but it’s generally thought thought that the sport originated in England. The English have played almost a thousand test matches, winning far more than they’ve lost. They’ve played nearly seven hundred one day internationals and held their own against the Australians many a-time, winning The Ashes as many times as they’ve lost (32).
England are, have always been – and probably always will be – one of the world’s best cricketing sides. Still not convinced? Okay, let’s throw a few names at you: Sir Ian Botham, WG Grace, Tony Greig, Mike Gatting, Allan Lamb, Denis Compton, Jack Russell…
Rugby. Be it league or union, there’s no denying that England trumps Scotland. Let’s dwell on union here. Funnily enough, England’s first ever rugby union test match was actually against Scotland. It was a game England would go on to lose. That was way back in 1871. The battle is known as ‘The Calcutta Cup’ and of the 134 games contested, England lead 74 to 42 (with 18 draws).
Since that first match-up England have gone on to win Rugby World Cups and various Five and Six Nations. At the moment, the English are the second best side in the world, under Eddie Jones. Scotland are seventh. And, let’s be fair about it – there are only about nine countries in the world that even know the rules.
A bit of a controversial pick this, admittedly. The world’s most successful ever snooker player is Scottish. Stephen Hendry dominated the game for decades and was unstoppable. John Higgins, another Scotsman, is also one of the greatest players the baize has every seen.
But English players? They currently make up ten of the top sixteen. Scotland have Higgins in that list and Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus just outside of it. But cast your minds back to English players of yesteryear: Steve Davis, Willie Thorn, Paul Hunter, Jimmy White…
Oh, yeah. And England’s home to a certain Ronnie O’Sullivan. So England win.
To be honest, in terms of world class tennis players, Britain hasn’t got a huge stock of names to bandy about the place. England can throw a few hats into the ring… Tim Henman was okay. Fred Perry was good – a long time ago. Greg Rusedski was, well, a bit too Canadian. Andrew Castle wasn’t world class (but what a lovely guy, eh?!). No, the English come up short.
But Scotland? Well, they’ve not exactly got a rich history of top notch servers and volleyers. But they have got one thing – One Mr. Murray. No, not Jamie Murray (although he is quite good). Andy Murray. Yep. That guy. You might well now him as the world’s best tennis professional. So that kind of seals the deal, doesn’t it? Olympic gold medals, Grand Slams, the man’s unstoppable at the moment and seals tennis for the Scots.
Scottish geography is perfect for mountain biking (there are mountains, that’s what we’re saying). And while there are plenty of adept mountain bikers north of the border, it’s track cycling where Scotland really excel. They’ve produced plenty of top track cyclists, but there’s little point talking about anyone other than Sir Chris Hoy (sorry Callum Skinner and Katie Archibald…). Hoy has won more Olympic gold medals than any other UK-based Olympian. The man’s got six Olympic gold medals ferchrissakes!
Curling. It’s an odd sport, isn’t it? Someone chucks a stone down a sheet of ice while a couple of people smash a broom on that ice frantically in order to steer the stone towards a jack (known as a ‘house’). England might not have any real esteem for the sport, but plenty of countries do take it seriously. And it’s not just a game of skill. It’s all about tactics, you see – that’s why curlers often refer to their sport as ‘chess on ice’.
Canada dominate the sport currently, but Great Britain aren’t far behind them. That said, ‘Great Britain’ basically just means ‘Scotland’. That’s where curling was invented and gets most of its play in the United Kingdom.
So we make that three a piece. A draw. Neither country wants to settles for a point, do they? We need a winner. Let’ stake ‘Football’ on the winner of Friday night’s game, eh…?