Last Saturday morning I woke up and immediately checked the sports section of the online paper. I knew the Euro 2012 qualifiers had been played overnight (Hong Kong time), so I made a beeline for those results. I saw Ireland had pumped Estonia 4-0 away from home in the first leg of their playoff, and were as good as through.

“Bastards,” I thought. That was my first reaction, and it was based on bitterness.

Bitterness, because Aiden McGeady will now be rewarded for turning his back on Scotland and will get the reward the glory-hunting wee shite was looking for: an appearance at a major tournament. Future Scottish players with Irish links will now be more tempted to follow in his path. One – James McCarthy – already has.

“Bastards,” I thought, again. But this time it was envy, pure and simple.

Envy, because there’ll be thousands of Irish converging on Kiev, or Lviv, or Warsaw, or wherever, while us Scots will be converging on our armchairs to watch it on the telly.

Envy, because the Irish FA will make a tidy packet for appearing in the tournament, through TV fees and sponsorships. This will help them keep Trappatoni and invest in their infrastructure and players. We might make some cash if we have another Runrig gig at Hampden.

Envy, because Ireland’s players are no better than ours, but they’re outperforming, not underperforming. 4-0 away in Estonia, when we can only tie 0-0 in neighbouring Lithuania, who are a much poorer side? Trap’s team had one defeat in ten qualifying games. Sure, his teams may be boring, but are they any more dull than Levein’s?

Envy, because Ireland had former Nottingham Forest and Manchester United player Roy Keane, and we had former Nottingham Forest and Manchester United player Michael Stewart.

Envy, because Ireland have a sugar daddy paying half of Trappatoni’s €1.8m annual salary, while Craig Levein gets a free Vauxhall Astra from an SFA sponsor.

Envy, because their players will be in Polish and Ukranian shop windows, where a good performance might land one of them a transfer to a better team or a better league, where they’ll become better players. But Craig Mackail-Smith will still be playing for Brighton.

Envy, because their performance during the qualification rounds will boost their seeding for the next set of European Championship qualifiers.

Envy, because while we got shafted by a dodgy diver at home against the Czechs, they got the Armenian goalkeeper sent off when an Irishman handled the ball.

Psychologists have proposed that there are two types of envy: malicious and benign.

We feel malicious envy when we think someone’s success is undeserved. It makes us want to bring that person down.

Benign envy, on the other hand, is a motivating force, inspiring us to do raise our own game.

Malicious envy is the classic form of envy, one of the seven deadly sins. Dante wrote that in Purgatory the envious would have their eyes sewn closed with wire as punishment for their schadenfreude. I don’t want my eyes sewn shut (except when Gary Caldwell’s on the ball) and I don’t deserve it, either, because, apart from McGeady, I don’t want Ireland brought down – I want Scotland brought up.

My envy is benign envy. Ireland’s success is deserved, and it motivates me to want the same success for Scotland.

So well done, Ireland. You jammy bastards.

Billy




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