An Actor’s Life | England vs Scotland: a friendly fairy tale

One of the most feisty football fixtures in the world is that between England and Scotland. The word ‘friendly’ when attached to this match is as fictitious as the unicorn on the front of the British passport. One day many moons ago whilst waiting at passport control leaving England, I was asked by my daughter, when she was an overly-bright three-year-old, what the spirally-horned animal on the front cover of the passport was. She asked me in a loud voice during one of those lulls in conversation that happens sometimes in crowds.


Everyone heard the question and there was an expectant hush as they listened intently to my reply … I said rather hesitantly that it was a legendary animal that represented the domination of the uncontrollable beast that is Scotland and that was why it was chained to the rest of the emblem. “Oooh, I never knew that!” said a voice close to me. “I thought it was just something that Pliny the Younger had made up.”


Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know – my knowledge of mythology is a tad vague – but it strikes me as being possible proof of the English trying to show the Scots where they stand and to not get too big for their sporrans.


The history of the games between England and Scotland are littered with legends of feats of excellence on both sides. It is, after all, the oldest international football fixture in the world, the first being in 1872. As it stands today, the teams have played 111 matches. England have won 46 (a fairy tale win last week courtesy of Rickie Lambert’s first touch in international football), Scotland 41, and there have been 24 draws.


The Rivalry and intense antagonism in all things related to England and Scotland manifests itself easily onto the sports field. The surge towards Scottish nationalism only helps to fire up the Scots who love to put one over the ‘Auld Enemy’. The Scottish fans are widely respected throughout the world as they bring a sense of humour, colour and joie de vivre to any tournament they turn up to support at. Sadly the Scots have failed to qualify for any major championships in recent memory to back this claim.


Their worst defeat to England was in 1961 when they were hammered 9-3. The hapless Scottish goalkeeper, Frank Haffey, was so distraught after the match that he emigrated to Australia where he still lives to this day. He gave up football to pursue a career as a cabaret singer. His performance gave fuel for constant English criticism of useless Scottish goalkeepers. An oldie but goldie is the joke about the suicidal Scottish keeper who decides to throw himself under a bus, only for the bus to go under him.


One of my personal heroes, Dennis Law, was down under in Australia last week. He bumped into Haffney who asked: “Is it safe for me to come back home yet!”


That Theatre’s next play is ‘The Woman in Black’. Said to be the most terrifying live theatre experience in the world, see our website for details at