NEVER MIND the loss of Empire or even the setting up of devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and - last week - Northern Ireland. This is the news that puts the English in their place: their national football team has been ranked lower than Scotland in the seedings for the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. Never mind that England won - just, on aggregate - in their most recent encounter. Scotland is rated 13th in the world, England 16th.
Let us not dwell, however, on England's decline, but on Scotland's resurgence. For a nation with its own parliament again, this is the best, defiant answer to the carping of James MacMillan, the classical composer who moaned about his country's lack of spirit, confidence and tolerance.
Arguments about independence, currencies and whose North Sea oil it is are all very well, but this is much more important. This is football.