My Sporting Week: Backing Blue... and poor performances

Scotland players react following their last-gasp defeat to Italy at Murrayfield. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scotland players react following their last-gasp defeat to Italy at Murrayfield. Picture: Jane Barlow

It used to be said the Tartan Army revelled in glorious failure as there were not enough victories for them to enjoy.

But finding the romance in loss has never prevented football fans from voicing strong criticisms or demanding duff managers are sacked following a string of poor performances.

Vern Cotter’s team is heading for the nation’s fourth wooden spoon since 2004

Contrast that with the Scottish rugby union team. Supporters, pundits and players have developed a curious tolerance of defeat in recent years.

“Scotland are on the right track,” many chirrup in unison, despite all evidence to the contrary. “Backing Blue” is the snappy statement fans are encouraged to share on social media. ‘Accepting rubbish’ might be more appropriate.

Not so long ago the country’s first XV were a force to be reckoned with. A Grand Slam victory in 1990, a championship title in 1999 and several near misses along the way - most agonisingly the 1991 World Cup semi-final.

Contrast that to the current Six Nations campaign. Last weekend Scotland suffered their third late collapse in as many games, losing 22-19 at home to Italy.

Let’s face it - Vern Cotter’s team is heading for the nation’s fourth wooden spoon since 2004, and only an incredible upturn in fortunes will prevent the Scots from being whitewashed.

Their next match is at Twickenham, a ground no Scotland team has won at since 1983. After that, the Scots face Ireland, who - if they can win in Cardiff next week - will be on course for a Grand Slam.

Despite, this there are no shortage of pundits and players willing to drown us in a sea of relentless positivity.

“We’ve been building for some time now from the autumn,” flanker Blair Cowan told the BBC in the wake of the Italy defeat.

“We know how good we are and we have shown it in games against top sides.”

Cowan was far from a lone voice.

“Vern Cotter has made a real impact and I have belief in what’s going on within the squad,” former Scotland stand-off Dan Parks reportedly said.

I appreciate that rugby and football cultures are very different, as journalists who specialise in the former regularly remind us, making no attempt to disguise their supposed superiority.

But all competitive sports - from water polo to kabaddi - quickly lose their lustre if your chosen team lose every week.

Buck up your ideas, Scotland, before your feeble critics find the nerve to sharpen their swords.