Now that the Six Nations is over, I thought I’d put together some of my thoughts on the club v country issue that does not rear its ugly head so often in rugby, although it is always bubbling under the surface with Premiership clubs playing on most international weekends.
Firstly, I recall when the Falcons played a friendly in Glasgow back in August 2007, just before the start of the French World Cup. Travelling up to Scotland on the Suppy Club coach, I discussed the question of Falcons v England with another fan and said that I would rather the Falcons won the league than England won the World Cup.
Heck, I said, I’d rather the Falcons won that night’s game (a friendly, remember) than England won the World Cup.
It’s not that I don’t want England to win, I was pleased they beat France and Ireland (though it didn’t bother me too much that I only managed to see the second halves of both games), and had a good shout at my TV when Tom Croft broke through for his try in Paris.
It’s just that I feel far more passionately about my club (from my city) than my country.
I’ll give you more evidence of this – in November 2008 I got tickets for England v Australia at Twickenham through the Falcons’ season ticket ballot, but the Falcons were playing London Irish the following day and I couldn’t get both days off work. So I gave up the England tickets and even after the Falcons’ dour home defeat, I didn’t regret my choice.
Maybe it’s a Geordie thing, as friends of mine who are as passionate about Newcastle United as I am about the Falcons tend to feel the same way about the England football team.
It was interesting back in February when myself and Ma Leipy watched the second half of England v Wales in a pub in Leicester city centre, having just watched the Falcons lose heavily at Welford Road.
I was annoyed that England were beaten and things weren’t coming off for them, but I wasn’t getting worked up, unlike a rather fired-up gentleman in a Tiggers shirt whose language might well have got him kicked out of the match he had presumably attended an hour earlier.
I have since discussed this with a Newcastle United-supporting friend whose knowledge of rugby goes little beyond what I tell him about the Falcons. He said that he finds that his university friends who support Manchester United get far more frustrated about the England football team than he does, and puts it down to the fact that they are used to their club winning, and so they get worked up about England losing more than he does.
I think you could say the same thing about myself and the gentleman with high blood pressure in the pub in Leicester.
If England win the Grand Slam or the World Cup, I’ll be happy. I’ll probably cheer quite loudly. But my rugby attention will soon turn back to the Falcons’ next match. After all, for me, that’s the most important thing.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)