Sorry, Who Gets Battered?
It’s been an English sports fan’s go to battle cry, but it’s become increasingly incorrect over the years. Jack Donnelly examines the relationship between Scotland and England, and exactly why Scotland get anything BUT battered everywhere they go.
There’s something ironically admirable about being so unbelievably incorrect about something, but stubbornly sticking by it regardless. However, that ignorant bliss is often an easy source of ridicule for those who know what’s right and what’s wrong. Boris Johnson still stands by the fact that he is unable to tell the difference between a party and a work event, and plenty of others in England are still under the impression that Scotland are a truly insignificant sporting nation, and they “get battered everywhere they go.”
The perennial sentiment of Scotland being whipping boys of the sporting world has become a droning war cry of a naïve and painfully ill-informed army of English fans. As a Scotsman, self-deprecation comes naturally and as such, I’d be the first to admit that our sporting pedigree is often lacking – subpar, even. However, with every odd being stacked against us, with every missed opportunity, with every generation of broken hearts, we have a great time regardless. We wave our Saltires, crack open our cans of Tennent’s and make the most of the occasion. We’re united in our failures, and even more united in our rare successes. However, we’re most united as a nation when it comes to defending ourselves from those south of the border, and their attempts at good patter.
Yes, England’s sporting accomplishments are great and deserve to be celebrated. The 1966 World Cup, the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Hands up – fair play. But it’s the arrogance that English sports fans adopt as a result of any small success that makes them unbearable from a neutral or opposing standpoint, rather than any element of jealousy. And with the incessant and irrelevant repetition of “Scotland get battered, everywhere they go”, there’s no surprise to see an elevated level of animosity from Scotland fans. The most frustrating thing of all, though, is that there is little to no reason that England fans should be chanting this as in recent times, Scotland have had their southern neighbours’ card marked.
We can start with the two nations’ first love – football. There’s no avoiding the fact that England have the far superior record in this rivalry, but over the last few years, the dial has begun to swing to a much more level playing field. Take the clash in June 2017, for example. A pair of inch-perfect free kicks from Leigh Griffiths saw Scotland head into second half injury time with a 2-1 lead, meaning that England were set to rue every missed opportunity that they had squandered or, more realistically, the Scottish back line had dealt with. The stats from that particular match all lean in England’s favour, but those that watched the game know that Scotland deserved more than the draw they ended up with.
The same could be said of the most recent clash, which took place at Wembley in the Euro 2020 group stages. Given our meek tournament opener to a Patrik Schick-inspired Czech Republic, many slated an absolute whitewash in the oldest fixture in international football. In contrast to those expectations, Grant Hanley put on a defensive masterclass so incredible that Harry Kane has been unable to escape his pocket since, while Stephen O’Donnell’s constant comments, compliments and general winding-up meant that Jack Grealish seemingly forgot how to play football for the evening. The performance showed that Scotland deserved to be at the tournament and, in more pleasing circumstances, had the English leaving their national stadium in a quiet hurry.
Away from football, the two nations clash yearly in the world of international rugby, with the Calcutta Cup being contested during the annual Six Nations tournament. From 2009 to 2017, England maintained a tremendous run in this fixture, retaining the cup year upon year. However, like with football, that dial of dominance is beginning to swing from the St. George’s cross to the Saltire. Scotland have only lost one of the last five Calcutta Cup matches, winning three and, incredibly, drawing once. The last two wins have been particularly special, as brought about some much-needed updates to particular sporting statistics. Gregor Townsend’s Scotland secured their first win away at Twickenham in 38 years when they made the journey south in 2021, winning 11-6 on the day. Their most recent triumph came just a couple of weeks ago, when Finn Russell’s right boot and a penalty try saw Scotland run out 20-17 winners and, more importantly, retain the Calcutta Cup – this was Scotland’s first consecutive victory over England since 1984, and doing so in front of a packed Murrayfield made things that much sweeter.
The sweetest Scotland victories come on English soil, in front of English fans, however. In January of 2022, a lone Scot with an eye-catching hairdo was able to put a finger to his lips and silence a consistently questionable crowd at the Alexandra Palace to reign supreme in the World Darts Championship.
There was a trend of Scots rising up to quell the incessant chants of an English crowd who were criticised by players and media alike for their distracting, disrespectful behaviour. Think young Willie Borland, who threw a perfect nine-dart, game-deciding leg against Bradley Brooks, admitting that the crowd’s abuse made him really want to “get it up them”. Then in the quarter finals, with two Scots in action, both defeated English opponents to move onto the final four. Peter Wright’s victory over Newcastle native Callan Rydz was especially gratifying, when the cameras caught the Geordie singing along to the focal chant of this article. Rydz lead Wright two sets to one at that point – Wright won 5-4. Battered? Not so much. Of course, Wright went on to win the whole tournament, seeing off crowd favourite Michael Smith in the final, but Gary Anderson and Alan Soutar also flew the Saltire proudly throughout proceedings, with Soutar in particular surpassing all expectations. So, again, Scotland won out against the English and their incessant, meaningless chants.
Granted, Scotland cannot feign innocence here. We carry equal levels of pettiness when it comes to this feud. Even when we are nowhere close to being involved, we’ll do whatever we can to cheer on England’s opposition, adopting a widespread mindset of “anyone but England.” When the Three Lions made it through the Euro 2020 group stages, Davie McGregor from Coatbridge became Dieter Müller. Then Davor Mykolenko, Dirk Mæhle before triumphantly announcing himself to the world as Davide Marchisio when Italy reigned supreme in the tournament’s final match. There were many in Scotland who would have celebrated Gianluigi Donnarumma’s penalty save against Bukayo Saka as though it were David Marshall shutting out Alexander Mitrović. And while many could view this mentality as “tinpot”, let’s not forget that ahead of England’s biggest match in years, their fans were singing about Scotland getting battered while scrapping with each other.
Look, at the end of the day, Scotland and England will never like each other when it comes to sport. We know there will always be animosity between the two nations. This piece was never written to beg the English to stop poking fun at us, nor was it written to proclaim Scotland as a nation void of criticisable sporting ventures. We simply ask that if you are going to make fun of us, at least make it funny – barring that, make it make sense! England haven’t been battering Scotland for quite some time and signs are suggesting that will remain the case for some time yet.