If it does not all go to plan tonight then let’s try to bite our lip
IT’S the hope that kills you.
Most of us are guilty of it. The old sweats may attempt to beg to differ, but that frisson of excitement ahead of England’s tournament opener even gets to the cynical and is undeniable.
This time, more than any other time, this time... Ron’s 22, Gareth’s 23.
Just like the black-and-white scarf wearing Newcastle United fan who dreams of Wembley on a cold winter’s night after the FA Cup third round draw. Never mind Wrexham, Hereford or Exeter. This year; this time...
You may mock the guy over the road who suddenly becomes a football fan for a few weeks and suddenly displays a flag of St George in his bedroom window, but you secretly admire him and get what he is doing as you inwardly sing Vindaloo, World in Motion and Back Home.
It is as much a part of the national summer psyche as strawberries and cream and Pimm’s at Wimbledon and that first glass of crisp white wine on the opening morning of the Lord’s Test.
As is the bitterness following elimination from an international football tournament. Nothing exposes the feast-or-famine nature of social media more than England at a major finals.
Should Gareth’s lads flunk it against Tunisia this evening, the hand-wringing will be quite something. Stupid gifs, images of American actors who most of us do not recognise, all manner of swear words, character assassinations, you name it. Depressing.
People taking defeat or a poor result personally and displaying all manner of self-indulgence. Build them up; knock em down. Let’s face it, no-one will feel worse than the poor blighters in Russia.
Some perspective would be nice. There’s three games at the group stage, not one; the last time I checked anyway and the Tunisians are not without ability.
If it does not go to plan this evening let’s try to bite our lip. Carlos Manuel may have messed it up on the opening night for us in Monterrey in Mexico ’86, but we did not fare so bad in the end.
Remember Steve McMahon getting his pocket picked in the rain in Cagliari and a bloke from Builth Wells with a wand of a left foot called Kevin Sheedy ramming home an equaliser for Big Jack’s Ireland at Italia 90, too? That one turned out nice enough.
We’re not Germany, we’re not Brazil, we’re not Spain. We’re England and the road surface is never smooth and usually has a hazard or two.
Who knows how our lot will do this time. But it is hard not to like the cut of their gib.
We have a manager who most of us would happily share a pint with and a set of humble, downto-earth lads who look like they are relishing the experience of tournament football and everything that goes with.
No big egos, no splinter groups sitting on tables having a confab; just a group of young men genuinely excited to be representing their country at the peak of their profession.
There’s some talent in there, too, and results and performances have been encouraging in the main. You never know.
You want them to do well for themselves, not just us.
All told, in their last 15 outings at either a World Cup or European Championships, England have won just three of their opening matches.
It will not be straightforward. But let’s stick with them.