Dear Sir, let me support your team if ...

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The Independent Online
DON'T PANIC, good English folk. Euro 2000 can still be yours. You have merely reached that stage of the footballing cycle when it is wise to look inside your passport and discover that - joy of joys - you're not just English. You're British.

Naturally, it is to be hoped that, a month from now, we'll all be glorying in Sweden's demolition of the Poles, whereby England's chances of qualification would be resurrected. East of Wales and South of Scotland, Kev and the lads will re-shoulder our hopes.

However - just in case - it may be wise to take out a little insurance against your Englishness and to rebuild the bridges to your Britishness. Letter-writing often does the trick. There will be those who might like to communicate as follows...

To: Mr C Brown,

c/o The Scottish FA

Dear Craig,

As an Englishman, may I take this opportunity to apologise for the riot of joy that occurred in my lounge when David Seaman saved Gary McAllister's penalty during the last European Championship. I was merely led by those around me. Furthermore, I distance myself unreservedly from the puerile English sniggering which followed Scotland's unfortunate defeat by Morocco in St-Etienne last year.

I recognise that, when your fans came down to Wembley and broke our crossbar all those years ago, it was nothing worse than high spirits. What's more, ever since those rather risque days were consigned to history, I've become a huge admirer of your wonderful tartan army. Any chance of temporary membership?

Here's the point. It may not have passed your notice that, while your Scottish team has arrived at the verge of the Euro 2000 play-offs (for which, many congratulations), England's predicament has worsened somewhat.

Would you mind awfully if - in the event of England being eliminated (God forbid!) - I offered my backing to your side? I'm aware of how thoroughly irritating Scottish fans find it when the English make a late decision to patronise their cause. In fact, had results been more favourable on Wednesday, I might well have written this note to that nice Mr Hughes of Wales instead. However, as things stand, I fear I have little alternative.

Let me emphasise that, if England do make it through, I will withdraw this request altogether and afford your cause only secondary interest.

In the meantime, I remain devotedly yours (dependent on that result in Stockholm and assuming you can beat Bosnia again)...

A N Englishman.

Believe me. I've met Craig Brown on numerous occasions. A friendlier, more amenable chap doesn't walk the earth. He'll reply by return of post with your Tartan Army membership form. But, what if Scotland (a) don't make the play-offs or (b) lose when they get there? You may need to bend the rules of Britishness to reinforce your insurance...

To: Mr M McCarthy,

c/o The Irish FA

Dear Mick,

As a Barnsley lad, you understand the bulldog spirit. You know how the English love a cause and how, on the whole, they prefer it to be England.

You may also be aware, however, that we might have a potential snag with England, vis-a-vis European Championship qualifying. Under such circumstances, it is normal to switch our support to one of the other home nations. In this case, that would be Scotland. The further complication, though, is that they might not qualify either. Should the worst happen, would you be terribly offended if we asked you to be third choice?

Lest you be unsure of my sincerity, let me tell you that I screamed with delight when David O'Leary won that penalty shoot-out against the Romanians in Genoa nine years ago... and I empathised painfully with your predecessor (Mr Charlton) when he was trying to get water (and John Aldridge) onto the field against Mexico in Orlando in '94.

I can make myself feel really very Irish indeed... and, what's more, I was born in the same rolling green county as two of your nation's greatest recent servants, Andy Townsend and Tony Cascarino. Kent.

No-one should understand the need for a crafty and convenient change of nationality better than the manager of the Republic of Ireland. So Mick, have mercy and - if we need you - please take us on board. Yours (with a caring reminder to disregard this missive in the event of English or Scottish success)...

A N Englishman.

By hook or by crook, you should now have a reasonable chance of finding a mast onto which to pin your colours next summer. Remember, make your move now because waiting for confirmation of England's elimination (if it occurs) could leave you open to accusations of bandwagon jumping.

Just one more letter...

To: Mr T Soderberg,

c/o The Swedish FA

Dear Tommy,

PLEASE. Pretty please...