If it does not all go to plan tonight then let’s try to bite our lip

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - WORLD CUP - Leon Wob­schall ■ Email: leon.wob­schall@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

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.

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