Don’t use the Six Nations as an excuse to slag off Plastic Celts
We can’t help who we are
Around this time of year, something strange occurs in pubs across England. Ostensibly English people, who look and talk and sound English, who were born and educated in England, all start behaving differently. They have surnames like McFadden and O’Connor and Lloyd. They only watch rugby between February and March, and everyone else in the pub can’t stand them. They’re Plastic Celts and I am one of them.
Now if you asked me who I was and where I came from, I’d say London, maybe describing myself as English at a push. The fact that my Dad’s so Welsh he literally comes from a valley-enclosed mining village called Pontycymmer (Pontywhat ?) wouldn’t cross my mind. I don’t say I’m half-Welsh and I haven’t spent any significant time there in years.
But during the Six Nations everything changes.
No, I don’t become Welsh. “LlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochI” remains unpronounceable. I still can’t say I’ve ever been part of a male voice choir, or that there’s a photo of me in a St David’s Day outfit on my nan’s mantelpiece. I can pronounce “here”, “tear” and “ear” distinctly, without confusing anyone else. I’d much rather have a Stella than a Brains. I get the first two words of the national anthem right (“Mae hen” isn’t that tough) but by the time we get to “gwladgarwyr” I’m left humming the tune as passionately as I can.
What changes then? I see a bandwagon – a Sam Warburton, Warren Gatland driven bandwagon – and like fellow Plastic Celts who live in England but support Ireland or Scotland, I jump on it. More than anything – and this is what makes the Plastic Celt acceptable to the hardcore native Welsh or Irish or Scottish fan – we are united by a shared hatred of English Rugby. It’s a feeling passed down the generations – is there anything worse in the world than the invariably overhyped, gratingly posh English Rugby team? Is there anything funnier than watching them get humiliated?
The answer to both is no and the consequence of all this is that there’s no group of fans in sport more derided than the Plastic Celts. Surrounded by the English, pretty fucking English ourselves, we’re slagged off as the worst kind of glory hunters and hypocrites. This is of course true – how could it not be? – but it doesn’t mean it’s right.
We’re bored of being called hypocrites. We know we’re hypocrites. We enjoy being hypocrites.