A Blues Flag that I saw at the 1st game of the tournament had the slogan FTTC across it.  I asked the owner of the flag what the sentiment behind the flag was – For Those That Can’t.  He then explained that there are thousands of people who support our club and our nation that would love to be able to do what we do week in week out home and away with Blues, let alone travel the world like we’ve had the privilege for many years now.  Circumstances sadly don’t always allow for this to happen for everyone, the flag represents them.  It is to show them that they are with us in spirit if not in person, it is also a nod to those no longer with us to show that we still do this in their memory.  The sentiment stuck with me, and I’ve needed that as a reminder since the final whistle on Thursday.

The tournament so far as a whole hasn’t gripped me, or I think the nation yet, the performances of the team aren’t helping but I don’t get that usual tournament feel or feeling.  I walked out the ground on Thursday angry and disappointed, for the 1st time in a long-time following England had been a chore and something I hadn’t enjoyed. This hasn’t ever been the case previously despite worse performances and worse results over the years.  I’ve needed to remind myself since that final whistle of the conversation I had from the 1st game and how the sentiments behind that flag should still make me feel privileged that I got to be there and will be there on Tuesday for the final group game.

It’s been tough though!  Thursday was a hard watch and the anger and resentment within the stadium from as early as the 50th minute I think epitomised the general feeling amongst the nation.  We as England fans now expect more.  Maybe we shouldn’t, reality is we have won 1 trophy in our history, why do we expect to do any better than what we are doing?  Yet we have players now who are considered world class in their position winning trophy after trophy for club but can’t seem to do it when wearing an England shirt. This is what we expect more now.

Germany isn’t gripping us as a fan base, the ease you can travel to and from Germany means that you don’t immerse yourself in the tournament like you would of for the World Cup in Qatar.  The fact it is taking you 2 hours to get into the stadium each game from the city centre and 2 hours after the game to get back isn’t helping.  In 2006 Germany felt like the perfect country to hold a tournament, being 18 years younger back then may have clouded my judgement in 06 but it just feels like a country not setup to host this event. People are agitated getting to the ground, that then impacts the mindset and the atmosphere within the stadium.

Contrast the above with some friends I met in Qatar who moved to Naples, Florida, they are loving Germany and loving the tournament.  They aren’t able to go home and therefore are travelling from city to city taking the whole tournament in, because of that the game has become secondary.  The cliché of 90 mins of football ruining a great trip is a sentiment we’ve always used when travelling, it’s never just about the football it’s about seeing the world and memories made with friends.  They are getting that experience whereas for those of us dipping in and out of Germany the football has become more important and when it’s as bad as Thursday, frustration’s will tell.

There is a video clip of a Charlton fan from a previous tournament, he states how bad his season has been watching Charlton and how England were meant to save his summer.  I think as Blues fans we can all relate to this after last season, I strongly felt England would reach the semi-final as a minimum and reignite my hopes for next season as we embark on league one after so many years of bottom 6 scrapping by.  Walking out the ground Thursday I felt exactly like I did most games walking out of St Andrews last season.

We keep being told that we shouldn’t panic, that we are top of the group and that we didn’t lose the game.  We’ve been reminded that in 2021 we beat Croatia, drew with Scotland and then beat Czech Republic in 3 dull games before turning it on in the knockouts and reaching the final.  Similarities are there, we can’t ignore that, but something just isn’t right with this team / squad.  After 60 mins of the 1st game, my pal I was with said that the players looked out on their feet and had no energy.  This was 60 minutes in what could be a 7-game tournament! Even the players have come out and blamed fatigue, the pitch, the heat post-game.  Why are we making excuses like this 2 games into a tournament?

I started this with the sentiment behind For Those That Can’t.  Maybe someone should remind these players that as a group of 26 they are privileged to be in this position.  There are 1000s of players who would give anything to be in this squad, injured players who would give anything to have been able to be selected and a group of ex professionals who have represented England in the past that would still given the chance to play for England even now.  They should be playing every single second they are on that pitch FOR THOSE THAT CAN’T.

We go into Tuesday now knowing that should we win then we will win the group undefeated and maybe Thursday will all be forgotten.  If you’d have asked me Thursday how confident I was about doing that then I’d have said no chance!  I even stated that this team reminded me of the so-called Belgium team who failed at the World Cup in Qatar as favourites.  I also sent a message to the lads that I travel with stating that even if we did qualify on Tuesday then I was 100% not bothering with the round of 16 game as I didn’t want to waste my money.

Reality is, Tuesday at full time and we’ve won the group the question will come – Are we going to have a look?   Of course, were going to have a look!

Forward to Cologne.

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