46 years of hurt


With apologies to the non sports lovers amongst you, as a football mad blogger now living in a football mad country, I thought I really should write something about Euro 2012 which began today in Poland and the Ukraine.

For the unititiated, ‘Euro 2012’ is not the date on the tombstone of the single European currency (…or maybe it will be), but refers to the ‘UEFA European Football Championships’, a once-every-4-years prize competed for by the top 16 footballing nations in Europe.

The Euros dovetail neatly with the World Cup schedule, giving football fans an almost continual diet of international tournaments to get excited about.

In previous years, the build up to these big football tournaments always seems to be filled with great hope and anticipation as England’s fearless squad head off to do battle on foreign soil.

(However, this is inevitably followed a couple of weeks later by crushing disappointment, usually linked to some kind of tabloid scandal, as the players are sneaked back into the country via the side door at Heathrow.)

And on top of all this unfounded pre-tournament optimism, the marketing department at the FA routinely thinks it would be a good idea to put out a song to accompany their team’s inevitable triumph.

This line of thinking has led to some weird and wonderful offerings over the years, from ‘Back Home’, the song that sort of gave its name to this blog, to ‘World in Motion’ eclectically featuring New Order and a cameo rap from winger John Barnes, to the uplifting, but ultimately fruitless ‘Football’s coming home’ anthem to celebrate the last time England hosted a tournament.

The latter song included the plaintive line “30 years of hurt, never stop me dreaming” referring to the fact that at the time of recording (1996) it was 30 years since England’s one and only triumph in a major football tournament – the 1966 World Cup.

Sadly the need to keep dreaming has now been extended by a further 16 years…with no end in sight.

However, this time round feels rather different. Expectation, which is normally sky high at this point, seems to be extremely muted across the nation as fans come to terms with their old manager Fabio Capello resigning in a huff a few months ago to be replaced by Roy Hodgson, a nice enough man who, let’s just say, has failed to set the pulses racing.

Add to that a whole spate of injuries, an unseemly selection row that inevitably centres around John Terry (don’t get me started..) and the fact that our players are, well, let’s be honest, a bit average and you can understand the fans’ lack of enthusiasm, especially as they cast envious glances at the power of the Germans, the skill of the Spanish and the ‘total football’ of the Dutch.

Historically at this stage of the tournament (i.e. safely before the first ball is kicked) media talk is generally of the “England can go all the way” school of bravado. This time however, consensus seems to be that we will do well to survive the qualifying round.

At the moment, I’m having an each way bet on the Euros. I’ve left the Jubilee bunting up a few extra days, ready to board the bandwagon if by chance England exceed expecations and actually start winning.

However, I’m fully expecting to be up a ladder on Tuesday morning, following a heavy defeat to the French of all people the night before, pulling down the flags in a mood of quiet resignation and stashing them away for the World Cup in 2014.


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