Old enough to know what will happen
I’M old enough to realise the England squad are as useless as a chocolate fireguard in Europe.
Others are not and already there’s a growing legion of loyal fans convinced this is our tournament.
Their hopes have been bolstered by wins over a small Balkan state and a volcanic Pacific island which lists spear-fishing as its national sport.
We were also unlucky to only draw with Vatican City following a controversial “hand of God” goal. Quite a few spectators are convinced it was actually The Almighty’s hand.
Those fans and players with three lions on their shirts will be disappointed in Russia, I fear. History has shown we will scrape through the early stages before losing on penalties to one of the warm favourites.
There has only been disappointment since 1966, yet still we live in false hope, hope based on not a scintilla of logic.
Because of age and location, we will not even be entertained by watching Wayne Rooney - a freckled individual who strokes rather than tans – get progressively pinker as the World Cup progresses. Thankfully, we bowed out of every major tournament featuring Wayne before he blistered. With Rooney no longer an England regular, our hopes rest with Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford. They are fine footballers, but, like
the rest of the squad, have been trained to suppress anything vaguely interesting when grilled by the media.
The results are predictably dull interviews, with players refusing to budge from the script. Sadly, the days of Gazza babbling are long gone. The point was hammered home by my “cliche” count for the last World Cup... • ”It’s about the team”: said seven
times. • ”The lads gave me a bit of stick”: four times.
• ”At this level, there’s no such thing as an easy game”: eight times.
• ”If you don’t take your chances, you’re going to get punished”: five times. I long for a player to simply tell the
TV cameras: “We were absolutely
s***.” At Russia, someone will endure a metatarsal problem. That medical phrase will be repeated ad nauseam, which has always baffled Yours Truly. Commentators do not shriek, “he’s clearly feeling that gluteus medius”, so why the insistence with surgical correctness when it comes to feet?
The tournament will also introduce a new terrace musical instrument. At South Africa in 2010, it was the infernal vuvuzela, which sounded like a swarm of wasps.
This is Russia. Expect games to be played to a soundtrack of balalaikas.
The din will not faze England fans who, for decades, have endured THAT brass band playing “The Great Escape”. The number is inappropriate:
I cannot recall a “great escape” by England, only dull draws and failures.
Do our patriotic musicians select their place in stadiums on an “I’ll bet that chap would really appreciate a trombone blasting in his ear for 90 minutes” basis?
What joy they must bring to those around them.
Someone will also find an animal with the freakish gift for predicting results, the more exotic the creature, the better. Yesterday, I overheard an excited sports reporter telling his boss: “You paint England colours on one of the white rats, Tunisia’s star and crescent on the other. Put them in the tank and whichever one the python crushes first...”
There’s something about a heatwave – and the popular press has convinced me we will be in the midst of Sahara conditions without the discomfort of sandstorms – and a major sporting event that thrusts patriotism to the fore.
Yesterday I was served by a waiter with a Cross of St George smeared on his face. It was a Vietnamese restaurant. A
I was also approached in the beer garden of my local, now festooned in flags, by drinking companion Colin, his bloated belly spilling disobediently over what appeared to be a Union Jack thong.
“Are those,” I asked, “a little uncomfortable?” “Not at all,” he protested before making hurried adjustments. “Sorry, I think I popped out again.”
I attempted to make out the blurred legend on Colin’s tight T-shirt. “It says, ‘these colours never run’,” he pointed out helpfully, “but the washing machine ruined it.”
A career chronicling England’s failures has taught me what to expect from this campaign. I will be sent to some God-forsaken sink estate with more nationalistic banners than a Third Reich rally.
“Don’t call me right wing just because I love my country,” said one council house tenant, clutching a can of Tennents lager, during Euro 2016. We watched the flaming cross impaled in his rockery spit firefly embers into the nightsky and toasted to a memorable win over Germany or, as he dubbed them, The Krauts.
That tournament delivered a new low for England. We were dumped out of the competition by Iceland: losing
to a supermarket is as bad as it gets.
I will be invited by residents to an England match barbecue that will descend into a brawl when our brave lads are beaten.
I will also be tasked with interviewing restaurateurs from countries partaking in the competition.
One Mexican eatery has pledged to create a tortilla featuring the country’s flag, while a Spanish chef is, as we speak, crafting apatriotic paella.