There is only one way to watch England in the World Cup and that’s through the eyes of your children... or the fog of drink.
Watching through the jaded bloodshot eyeballs of a long-suffering 52-year-old is to immerse yourself in a cold bath of world-weary cynicism.
That four-yearly pain of another England World Cup failure has beaten all the enthusiasm from this middle-aged football fan. A pain only ever-so-slightly eased when we fail to qualify.
For the kids it’s a different story. Our 14-year-old is convinced it’s England’s year. In fact, our Isaac maintains it’s a dead cert. His eyes are bright with hope. I can’t bring myself to look into them.
He keeps repeating the words of Marcus Rashford who, after England dismissed Costa Rica in the last friendly before the team jets off to Russia, said “Anything’s possible.”
It’s a rallying call that echoes that of England manager Gareth Southgate who, when asked about the chances of our boys winning the World Cup, told reporters: “My job is to allow people to dream. What’s the saying? ‘Make the impossible seem possible.’”
Brilliant. Except it supposes that England winning the World Cup is impossible. Not the best of starting points for a team talk, but pretty much right on the money.
Gareth doesn’t even dare go as far as urging the players to make the impossible ‘actually’ possible. He just wants it to ‘seem’ possible. And when Marcus says “Anything’s possible” it means England could win the World Cup in just the same way as Panama could win the World Cup. 6-3. Against Iran. In other words, it ain’t gonna happen.
We all know how it goes.
Football is a simple game. Twenty two men chase a ball for 90 minutes, then the Germans win on penalties!
It was a different story when I was a youngster. The first World Cup I can remember was 1974 in Mexico. Probably made all the more enjoyable by the complete lack of England. Won it in 66. Mucked it up in 70. Failed to qualify for 74. Yep, that’s the progressive England I grew to know and love/loathe.
After that it’s been a series of calamities. Injured Keegan’s missed header, Robson’s dislocated shoulder, Diego’s Hand of God, Gazza’s tears, Pearce and Waddle’s pens, Beckham’s sending off, Beckham’s metatarsal, the list goes on. This time round there’s been little controversy in the run up. The nearest we’ve got has been the gun tattoo on Raheem Sterling’s leg.
Rather than being a cause for concern, the tattoo of a machine gun pointing at the end of his leg is probably an apt metaphor for England.
I can’t think of a better image for a national team that regularly shoots itself in the foot? It should replace the three lions on the shirt.
Thing is, the nearer you get to the tournament so the hope builds ... Kane is a natural goalscorer, Sterling is in great form, Rashford can beat anyone on his day. We might just do it. C’mon England ... and pass the gin.