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Three Lions North? – Scotland’s Dependency on English-Born Players

Thursday 30th March 2017
Looking down the ranks of the contemporary Tartan Army; there's a surprising amount of players who actually were born south of the border – in the arms of their Auld Enemy. With 32% of the squad not born in Scotland, is the national football team losing its national image?

Whilst it's not a mandatory requirement to be a kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing; SNP-voting [insert more Scottish stereotypes here] male to play for the side – but this would certainly add to the Scottish values and image of their national football side. Gordon Strachan who spent a large part of his career in England hailed Chris Martin in the press about his late winner which put Scotland's World Cup qualification hopes back in contention.

That said, Chris Martin is English. He was born in the market town of Beccles, in Suffolk. Some 392 miles from Hampden Park. His father was born in Glasgow, and thusly made him eligible for the Scottish side. He did, however, make four appearances for the England U19 side back in 2007, scoring two goals in the process. Prior to his first Scottish cap, Martin made it a point to express his understanding and recollections of his ancestry. But he's still not overtly Scottish. FIFA nationality rules will recognise him as so, but his veins won't run with either IRN-Bru or Bells.

This isn't a terrible issue, many players have switched nationalities for a multitude of reasons. Wilfried Zaha, changed to the Ivory Coast from England because he felt he'd have more opportunities with the African side. Diego Costa changed to Spain as he felt more aligned to Spain than he did Brazil. If the recidivist nation, the player and FIFA are happy then that's fine. But should this process be repeated on a regular basis, it could dilute the national identity of the squad. That's what Strachan could be found guilty of.
Nine of his latest twenty-eight man squad (including Chris Martin), weren't even born In Scotland. All of which, were born in England. Russell Martin, Kieran Tierney and James Morrison all started the game against Slovenia. Meaning that 27% of the starting eleven, at one time could have played for their closest rival. Whilst yes, now the players have converted to the Scottish side of the border – should this dissolution of Scottish culture be allowed or celebrated?

Whilst the cultures of both England and Scotland; are contained within overall British cultures – the incoming English players won't have much difficulty fitting in their new national setups. However, over time, the Scottish identity will be essentially chiselled off; with the influx of English-born players. Whilst die-hard Tartan Army supporters may contest it, but the Scots football teams primary objective has been to just defeat the English. Only ever playing in two European Championships and six World Cups since 1974. After all, with no real honours to their name, their achievements are beating the English.

They famously did so in 1967 after England had won the World Cup the previous year. The managed to win a well-contested game 3-2; although in the dying embers played and outclassed the English. A win over the World Champions was phenomenal but legendary given they were the Auld Enemy.
Footage from the 1967 game with an altogether very British narrator.

Beating the English is a deep-seated passion of every Scottish football fan, something which the 1977 Scottish away section surfaced a little too much. The Scots had won the game; so the Scots became a little too rowdy. Invading the pitch and causing general damage to Wembley stadium. Whilst not condoning these actions; it's fair comment to say these actions reflect the emotions that the Tartan Army have for the English.

Therefore it seems really strange that the national team would enlist the services of so many English-born players. James Morrison; despite being born in Darlington and playing for England at four different levels, is one of the most capped and experienced players in a Scottish jersey. Out of the contemporary squad, Shrewsbury-born Steven Fletcher has scored the most goals for the national side. Although he did spend most of his childhood in Scotland; which may have instilled some Highlands culture and authenticity into him.

The whole situation seems rather troubling, Scottish football's culture dwindling: and crumbling as their bitter rivals chip away at their genuineness. Whilst the English imports may bring them success, it does nothing to restore the days of Denis Law and Bobby Lennox. Scottish thoroughbreds who knew the feeling to beat the English; as opposed the contemporaries which may have even played for the Three Lions at some level. Altogether, Scotland should invest more into developing its own stars by harnessing their academies; and potentially break the Celtic curse of the Scottish top tier – making it more appealing to youngsters – and fall back on England's championship players who realise they won't be playing for the Three Lions any time soon.

Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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