I was having a debate last night about how I see England’s chances at the World Cup. The news was starting to break of the squad and people were discussing it in force.
I was judged for my view that we could do worse than taking young and un-tried players in the mix with internationally experienced players. My point was in the past we have had much stronger squads going into World Cups than we have this year so why not try the unexpected? I feel some un-tried talent would bring an injection of pride and passion into the England squad that we haven’t had in a while and that couldn’t hurt our chances of success.
I’m not expecting England to get past the quarter finals this year, I feel that other countries have much stronger squad depth than we do and I feel Brazil with the home advantage will secure the win with Spain coming second.
Apparently my view is part of the problem. The person judging me on this wasn’t even born the first time I cried over England being knocked out of a World Cup and they don’t know me or my history as an England supporter so I wanted to set the record straight.
The reason I no longer expect England will win every tournament they take part in is because I have had 24 years of disappointment. I’ve flown bunting and placed St Georges Crosses in the windows of my house, brought the latest kits for luck and sat in the same lucky seats doing the same routines to do everything in my power to help England win, and as we know they haven’t.
In actual fact the only reason I have an interest in football can be attributed to one moment of watching England play, this one:
Up until the point when Paul Gascoigne started crying in Turin during Italia 90 I was nonplussed about football. I’d been to lots of lower league matches and sat watching the odd game on TV with my Dad and Grandad but wasn’t bothered by it. Despite my Dad bringing me up on QPR stories and me apparently telling people I was a QPR fan, I plead ignorance of this!
Up until that point the only other time I remember enjoying football was doing planes with my Dad flying my brother around the room when England scored during the World Cup in 1986.
I saw the passion and pride Paul Gascoigne had in his country and I cried along with him. I can still remember asking my Dad why he was crying and his response that Gazza would miss the final if we got through the game. In fact Italia 90 was full of moments to be proud of the England Team and some iconic photo’s of bloodstained shirts and tears spring to mind as I think of it. It was directly after that I asked my Grandad to take me to a football match.
Euro 96 was the big tournament for me. It was in England and I have grown up on family stories of when we won the World Cup and how everyone celebrated. My Mum had said if we won we would get in the car and drive straight into London on the final whistle to be a part of it like she did in 1966, although my Dad said he would stay at home! I even went to Bisham Abbey to see the team and wish them luck during the tournament.
I was lucky enough to go to England v Spain and it was a special experience but unfortunately although we had tickets for England v Germany we couldn’t use them as my Dad’s company had banned accepting tickets for matches. I still went to Wembley with my Nan to get a programme, just to be a part of the atmosphere.
I stood outside the players entrance and had a brilliant time, managing to get quite a few signatures on the programme. I bumped into some of the Chelsea players just back from a post season tournament and even ended up in a sing-song with Frank Lebeouf and some random guy, the three of us shaking hands which to this day I’m not sure how it happened.
I got chatting to a nice lady who was waiting for her son and explained about how I’d love to see the game but didn’t have a ticket. She said she wasn’t sure if her son would make it and I could have his ticket if he didn’t. I was excited but didn’t think I would be that lucky to get to see the match. When her son turned up I was even more surprised, it was Jamie Redknapp’s brother! She even tried to get me a spare ticket and offered to pay for my cab home. But it wasn’t to be.
I remember being outside the ground when Alan Shearer scored, I could tell by the noise of the crowd it was a corner as we were walking to the station. I stopped and waited for the reaction and as the stadium erupted I screamed “we scored” and two men ran up to us and kissed us on the cheek and run off and into the ground. I remember walking down Wembley Way and stopping to turn round for one last look and seeing England 1 Germany 0 scrolling across the temporary board, I think I even got a photo of it.
I got home in time to see the second half and penalties. When Gareth Southgate missed his penalty the programme went out the window as he had signed it for me before the match! To this day I can’t look at that programme. At the end of the penalty shoot out I punched the wall in frustration and promptly got locked in the garden until I ‘calmed down’. I sat outside until the early hours of the morning in the darkness nursing a warm beer and mourning my chance at celebrating our win in the streets of London. England matches have never been the same for me since.
I used to be an organiser of a football tournament years ago when my brother played. One year the tournament clashed with the World Cup so I suggested showing the matches on a TV in the beer tent so we could encourage people to stick around. No-one thought we would be able to work it but I managed to get a local company to provide a TV in exchange for advertising and it made the tournament and boosted the revenue for the club.
It came to a point when I realised it doesn’t matter whether I believe we can win it only matters what the 11 players on the pitch believe and for me they haven’t believed they will win anything for a while. The press don’t help matters either, they look for any opportunity to undermine the players going into the big tournaments.
Look at the influence they had over the decision to strip John Terry of the England Captaincy over the allegations he had an affair with the ex-partner of a England team-mate. Incidentally, the papers recently printed a retraction and apology to the woman in question stating they realised the claims were false but did not apologise to John Terry from what I read!
So judge me on my footballing views but don’t judge my suitability as an England supporter. I will be watching every game, cheering them on and hoping against hope that they prove me wrong and go on to win the tournament but I won’t add to the expectation of it. I won’t pile that pressure on the team, because I have been there and done that and it didn’t help. If we do win I will be the first person in the car heading for London as that final whistle blows to be a part of the celebrations.
Come on England!
England Squad 2014:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Attackers: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).
Standby: John Ruddy (Norwich City), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool), John Stones (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Andy Carroll (West Ham United), Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC).