French fancy from bloody-minded Yorkshireman

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Like many men of his generation who spent their youth fighting the Germans, my grandad really disliked the French.

You could trust the lads in the opposite trench, he said. They made no bones of the fact they wanted to kill you. But them on the same side? You could never be sure.

Nearly 1,000 years of cross-Channel animosity was wound tight in his DNA.

So when I told him I would be supporting France at the 1998 World Cup, he pronounced me a traitor and “a typical bloody-minded Yorkshireman”.

I find myself thinking about this each year on Yorkshire Day. Let me explain.

I don’t pick my favourite band or author according to which bit of land they’re from, so why should I my football team? Why should I support 11 overpaid prima donnas because they happen to have been born on the same island as me, when one French Algerian genius – Zinedine Zidane – brought far greater joy just by being born at all?

I was serious then, and I’m serious now. Watching Zidane made my jaw drop. Not just because he was so insanely good but because he was so insanely good without ever seeming to even try. He glided. He flowed. He dropped a shoulder and three defenders disappeared from camera shot. He was – please don’t laugh – Van Gogh on grass. Even his headbutts had finesse.

And, as such, I wanted him to be successful. That’s a proper reason for supporting someone, I told my Nottinghamshire grandad. A geographical coincidence isn’t.

He wouldn’t have it. Typical bloody-minded Yorkshireman, remained his conclusion. It was meant as an insult. I wear it with honour. And yet, Yorkshire day makes me doubt myself.

If toasting a date invented to protest against local government changes in 1975 is what this region is about then send me along Snake Pass and call me Lancastrian. If something needs an artificial day of celebration, it’s probably not worth celebrating. I cherish this region every day by living here, by loving its people and places. I don’t need to shout about it on August 1 to prove it.

If this county is about anything it’s stoicism and quiet confidence, not braggadocio and ballswinging. So what’s the proper Yorkshire way to write about Yorkshire Day, I asked an old Sheffielder down The Riverside. Write about something like France instead, he said. Proper bloody-minded advice, that. Taken.