An important week-end coming up for many of the international teams in the British Isles in both codes; let’s deal with football first and start with the most likely to qualify for EURO 2012.
England has a 6-point lead on their nearest rivals, Montenegro and could put any doubts to bed when the two sides meet on Saturday; by contrast, Wales, in the same Group G, lie bottom with only 3 points from 6 matches and have no chance of further progress.
The Republic of Ireland is second in Group B, two points behind Russia, one in front of both Armenia and Slovakia. Ireland should get three points against Andorra on Saturday, then have a home game against Armenia, which gives them a great chance. A lot depends on how Russia perform against Slovakia, also on Saturday, so Ireland should at least get a second place spot, if not an outright qualification.
Scotland trails the Czech Republic by two points at the moment. The latter host Spain on Saturday, while we travel to Liechtenstein on Sunday. Then comes probably the deciding games, when the Czechs take on Lithuania and we meet the runaway leaders Spain. Second spot is all we can hope for and it would be good to be still in the competition next week. It is now 13 years since Scotland were last in the finals of either the World Cup or the European Championships and on these occasions, our absence is wounding to the spirit of the nation.
At least we are still in with a shout. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland, with only 9 points from 8 games, lie in 5th place in their group, with little chance of catching Serbia in 2nd spot.
When it comes to the rugby World Cup quarter- finals, however, Scotland are ‘oot’! And that leaves me with a dilemma – who do I support for the remainder of the tournament. Well, let’s look at my options. The Craig side is pure Scots as far back as we can check; on my mother’s side, though, the Hughes family came from Westport, County Mayo, the Wisdoms from Portrush, County Antrim. My wife is half-English, her mother from Yorkshire. However, as Elisabeth is a dedicated Francophile, we are more likely to sing La Marseillaise!
Then we have this little lady, Ella, the older of my two grand-daughters.
Thanks to her mother Angela, a proud Welsh lady, Ella is already wearing the red of the Principality and is threatening to come to my house on Saturday dressed for the occasion.
And I must not forget my two oldest grand-sons – Alex and Sam – the products of Mark and Andrea, based in South Island, New Zealand.