Higher Still with Jimmy Hill

2nd October 1998 at 01:00
DO WE hate Jimmy Hill? Do we question his sexuality? No, we do not. Football, far from being much more than a matter of life and death, is much less.

That's easy for me to say as a one-time badly co-ordinated wee boy who walked around the pitch, arms folded, reacting only when the ball was obviously heading in his direction. Unable to get enthused about the Premier League, unless one of the Old Firm look like being gubbed by a minnow outfit, I tell pupils who ask what team I support that I follow Motherwell. This is despite years of evidence that there's no point in going for the sympathy vote when it comes to classroom management.

Having said all that, when the World Cup was on I did my best not to miss the Scotland games. Hyped up, feeling my lower leg muscles tighten with every near miss and ultimately (and inevitably) disappointed, I supported my country, and two or three others after Scotland were eliminated.

I had made a conscious decision before the first match. This was to be the year that I would not want England to lose. Rejecting all the historical and political analysis on why we cannot stand to see our nearest neighbours do well, I decided it had much more to do with a sort of international sibling rivalry. As more informed commentators have said, it is a sign of immaturity (of the nation) that we ill-wish those over the border.

I tried. I really tried. In the end, I was still relieved when they were put out, though I was able to say, fairly sincerely, that I felt they ought to have won. Out loud I professed that my relief had been solely because the hooligan fans and the baw-heided commentators would be upset.

Had not a bottle been thrown and had Messrs Hill and co been able to forget 1966 for a time, just maybe I would have cheered the Auld Enemy on. More disturbing is the possibility that I would have been disappointed if all the English fans had behaved well and their pundits had shown a sense of proportion.

At least I could have fallen back on an old standby. England deserve to be beaten at everything they do because the English media (massive generalisation coming up) do not take the trouble to acquaint themselves with the education set-up in Scotland. "English school pupils need to study more subjects beyond GCSE - here's a special report on how they do it in one of the Albanian provinces."

And I'm yelling at the television that what they are talking about is a Higher-style arrangement. They don't know the facts, here's the proof, here's the proof.

Gregor Steele's principal teacher once silenced a dinner party by bursting into the Jimmy Hill song.

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