It hasn’t rained in weeks.
The government is collapsing
…and then it happened…
Football came home.
Yes, that’s right. It. Came. Home.
The original song by Badiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds never meant the World Cup was coming home. (Why would it? It was written for Euro 96). It referred to a nation regaining pride in a national team that had so often disappointed it and a tournament being hosted in the country that invented the modern game of football.
Whilst England may not have won the 2018 world cup we made it further than we ever expected. Only two England managers before Gareth Southgate had ever made an World Cup semi-final. More importantly when faith in the England national team was at an all time low the 2018 World Cup squad made us believe again. I get not everyone likes football and its easy to list a whole load of negatives about our national sport, from overpaid prima-donna players to hooliganism, football does not always have the best reputation. Whilst some fans haven’t helped the image of football by taking their celebrations too far on the whole watching England at this world cup has been a positive experience for a country very much in need uniting behind a source of communal pride right now. Anything that can have strangers singing and hugging in the street and make people proud of their country for reasons other than nationalistic bullshit cannot be all bad right? The trophy may not be coming back to England but our love of football and our national team is very much back. Football has come home.
Not to be “that guy” the stereotypical armchair fan who always knows exactly what his teams manager should do, but this summer we have watched a team of English players play with pride and professionalism for the first time in two decades. Key word – “Team”. I can only hope Southgate keeps this team together as long as possible. Our so called “golden generation” never once looked like a team, they were simply best XI English players that were available for any given tournament. Yes there were some world class players in that team but they always looked like eleven strangers for whom playing for their national team was not even the highlight of their career. This new England squad has shown more camaraderie over the past 6 games than the golden generation did in nearly a decade. Please Mr Southgate keep faith in them, all that matters is their England form and they should be picked on that basis, when the team starts getting filled with the Premier League flavours of the month the squad loses its consistency. Give this team four years more international experience and they could become a real force. Look at the German squad of 2010 for inspiration. They took a young inexperienced squad to the World Cup and made it to the semi finals. Four years later that squad with the same core of players became World Champions.
Unlike previous tournament exits, last nights result was not met with the usual anger towards the players and management but with respect and optimism. I was proud to find myself surrounded by people watching on the big screen at Spark: York applauding the players and singing “there’s only one Gareth Southgate”. The world cup might be over for this year but I am not ready for this good feeling around the national team to end just yet.
2018 – Football came home
2022 – The trophy came home?