A rare sensation of national pride swam its way through my blood last night. The rousing drums that kick start God Save the Queen began their thunderous rumble, and I felt the slightest flutter of excitement lurking in the crevices of my gut.
The beers were in, the boys were round; the footy’s on. England are playing. That’s got to be a good thing, right?
Well, my momentary flirtation with patriotism was, sadly, short lived. The dreadful drone of 5000 pissed-up England fans knocked the last ounce of St Georgism straight from within me and what proceeded on the pitch did little to bring it back.
Casting what could have been a proudly tearful eye over the 11 men wearing the roaring badge of the Three Lions, my heart sank. It got so bad – and this really is a guilty admission – that I stopped cheering, air-punching, and triumphantly chest pounding after England’s goal when I clarified who’d scored it.
I couldn’t bring myself to feel any semblance of joy watching Jesse Lingard delightedly wheel about the pitch.
The miniature Da in my psyche was furious. ‘Stand for your country, boy!’ it seemed to shout. But, at the same time, it also retched seeing the crest of his beloved nation adorned by the United midfielder. ‘WHAT ‘APPENED TO GAZZA, PSYCHO AND BLOODY TERRY BUTCHER?’.
With this bizarre inner conflict desperately, though unsuccessfully, wanting to will my country on to victory battling a rather depleting sensation of disinterestedness, you can’t blame me for having dropped any optimism once held for my national side.
Although it pains me to say it, and surely invites premeditated assault from the local gang of EDL enforcers, I couldn’t really care less for England at the forthcoming World Cup.
But alongside mini Da, something else lurked at the back of my mind. It may have been the beers – Carling, of course; none of that foreign, flavoursome stuff when watching England – but a voice in my head quietly began making noises about glory.
Glory, triumph, and a foot high golden trophy.
Stop it, I thought. Go away and get out of my head.
I had to protect myself, too many years have been wasted in the false conviction that England are any good.
We won, the voice continued, getting louder with every syllable.
We won with a team weaker than that crap beer and we won with structure, a plan, and some dynamism.
We can do this.
Panicked, I left the room. That little seed of hope had nestled inside my brain and begun to grow.
Thirty years of hurt,
Never stopped me dreaming.
The dreaming had begun and the chimera was growing. It had declared brutal war on my precious sanity and this summer’s longed for happiness.
I was losing the battle.
Year after year, I’ve fallen prey to the illusion that England might just do alright. It builds you up, gets you going and then, just as you start to bristle, drops you like a sack of s**t.
Not this year. I’d regained control over my thoughts. Group C would be propped up by Southgate’s men, that thought is surely the best defence against heartbreak. Build up a wall; a protective security blanket.
But we’ve been drawn against Tunisia and Panama, you raging pessimist, have some goddam faith.
It’s true, and by this stage even tiny Da had jumped on the deluded bandwagon.
After all, we’d beaten the Dutch with what was the worst lineup I’ve seen since Boyzone, so there’s got to be some hope to take from that.
And just look at the lads absent from the starting 11; Kane, Alli, Dier, Lallana, Vardy. Those kind of names make a difference.
Besides, we bloody invented the sport. If that doesn’t warrant a head start then nothing does.
Yeah, we might just have a chance this year. In fact, we’ve got a good chance. The best chance yet. I’m convinced.
Picture it now; the glorious headlines disseminating England’s treasured success. The open top bus, the bragging rights, the pride. God Save the Queen will never again be ruined by tone deaf drunkards and Jesse Lingard will be canonised by even his most vocal critics.
Whip out the bunting, haul out the inflatable hand, buy in the Carling.
F**k it, football’s coming home.
(It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming…)