Who would have thought at Euro 96 when all of us belted out “30 years of hurt” that it would take nearly double that time frame again?
On Sunday 11th July @ Wembley Stadium, KO 20.00hrs I will be watching England in the final of a major tournament.
The build up begins
In the build up to writing this I spoke with my Dad regarding the 1966 World Cup and what he remembers. Born in 1958 my Dad was 7 when the World Cup Final was played and was honest enough to tell me that he doesn’t remember much about the game other than he knows the family all sat down to watch it.
In 1966 the coverage would have been so much different than that of the coverage we have today. The younger generations are spoilt in terms of how much they are being able to live through this tournament and the sheer volume of exposure and coverage it has had. A 7 year old watching the game on Sunday will have far greater memories in 55 years’ time than those of the same age in 1966 and I hope that families around the UK on Sunday night really press home the significance of this moment.
This nation, our nation is finally behind the England football team like never before. The feel-good factor these 26 players and backroom staff have given us all this summer shouldn’t go un-noticed. We’ve all needed this after 18 months of living through a worldwide pandemic. Life has been tough for so many people, lives have changed through tragedy for people across the country and suddenly through football we have a glimmer of hope.
A night I will never forget
Wednesday night was as good as I’ve experienced as a football fan. The emotion that we all went through over the 120 minutes of football is hard to put into words. Like most footballing days for many people who follow club or country, the worst part of the day is usually the 90 minutes of football. When you follow a team like we do this is almost always the case home or away.
I didn’t think the Germany game could ever be topped. That was an out of body experience and I think a large part of that was due to the fact it was Germany and we never beat the Germans. The expectation amongst fans was we expect to lose, we always do against these but if we win then nothing else in the tournament will matter after that. I think that is why for the Germany game you saw the scenes you did after each goal and at full time.
Wednesday felt different because the belief amongst most of the fans was that we should really beat Denmark and not beating them would result in disappointment as opposed to pride. With that positive expectation brings a new sense of emotions. I woke up on the morning of the game after only 3 hours sleep, I couldn’t settle at all. Yes, I was excited but a lot of it was nerves due to the nature of the game and the opposition.
Those nerves stayed with me throughout, I felt sick, I struggled to eat and when they went 1-0 up, I thought to myself that it would be the same old story and another “Oh So Near” moment. There just seemed inevitable that once again we would fall at this hurdle.
Seen it all before
I’d been lucky enough to see England play against Croatia in Russia. Against Croatia it was more hope than expectation, playing Wednesday it was the other way around. We were the favoured team, we had the better players, we are the team who should be competing in the final.
The goal we scored just before half time was vital, it relaxed us all within the stadium and answered some questions that we’d all had of if this time could come back after going behind. From that point on for me we didn’t look back.
England dominated the game and should have won in 90 mins.
When Kane scored the emotion was a release of all that tension, we’d had pre-game and the first half of the game. Once we went in front, I knew that we would make the final, everyone around me knew we’d make the final and what incurred was a 30-minute party within a football stadium.
The official attendance will show as 60,000, within the stadium it certainly didn’t look like that and the volume of noise throughout the game suggested otherwise as well. It makes me sad that we won’t get to see a full stadium on Sunday, an attendance that such an occasion warrants and deserves.
I could write paragraph after paragraph regarding each player individually and how they have proven as a group so many people wrong. I could write pages regarding the Manager and the coaching setup and the monumental change they have led across all age groups within the England setup and the continued growth we are experiencing.
But what was evident at the end of the game on Wednesday night is that this is a team, they win together, and they celebrate each other’s success. Like they have united a nation they are a team united with their eyes firmly on the prize Sunday. The focus and belief are evident, they believe now is their time and because of that we all now believe as well.
17 years of waiting
Whatever the result on Sunday I am sure there will be tears at the end of the game. 17 years ago, when me and a group of mates started the addiction of following the national team this was the moment, we dreamed of without ever knowing if we’d ever get to experience it.
Sunday is a dream come true. I know I am privileged to be in attendance, but I also know that myself and the mates and people I will be stood next to deserve to be there Sunday night. We’ve spent our money; we travel the world and while others look at us and laugh at the so-called money, we waste they are now all envious that we have a ticket and begging us to get them one.
The football family you have is one that you choose and aren’t given. The bond that football brings is indescribable. With the national team it brings even the fiercest of rivals together, its an appreciation of the sacrifice each person there makes each time a tournament or qualifier comes around. Tuesday nights at home to Andorra, double header away trips via every mode of transport known to man. Each group has a unique story, each person united with a common bond, ENGLAND.
Sunday is for us and I hope my fellow England Fan members acknowledge this also. We’ve put the air miles in, we’ve suffered the heartbreak time and time again. All of that has led us to this match and this moment.
Here is to hoping that the tears I’m shedding Sunday are happy ones, that my nation, my England are the team still standing at the end.
Dare to dream lads, the whole nation is behind you.
Watch out for the final instalment of a Blues Fan on International Duty