Sport makes fools of us all – though sometimes in the best of ways. Russia 2018 was supposed to be the first major tournament in Europe I had missed since failing to go to Italia 90, but Gareth Southgate Kyle Van Noy Youth jersey had other ideas.
I was there at Euro 96 when he did not “just belt it, son” against Germany, as his mother put it, so I have seen England go out on penalties in a tournament’s last four. But an odyssey Wesley Walker Youth jersey inspired by one World Cup semi-final will finally lead to another, provided my flights get me to Moscow on time on Wednesday afternoon. There have been some wonderful highs along the way – my biggest regrets are the matches I missed – yet it has undeniably been a torturous wait.
Logically, given 1990 was the first tournament summer of my life not dominated by exams, I should have been at Italia 90. My first England game had been five years earlier, seeing Gary Lineker scoring his first international goal against the Republic of Ireland. Several of those exams I had sat had been in Italian, too. Then a work opportunity arose that made staying in London the “smart” option; though it proved that way professionally, when Bobby Robson’s side went all the way to Turin, as an England fan “smart” left me smarting. I was not going to be caught out again.
Two years later, therefore, I was in Stockholm when David Platt finally scored our first goal of Euro 92, and 1-0 up at half-time we were on the verge of another semi-final. OK, so enduring the 0-0s in Malmö against Denmark and France had been painful, but now Graham Taylor’s team were back on track. Sweden and Tomas Brolin staged a derailment, however, and away from home, at least, it proved to be the start of a trend, not a http://www.authenticmilwaukeebrewersshop.com/Yovani-Gallardo-Jersey blip.
Worse was to follow – I finally went to a World Cup at USA 94 but without a team to support – before my generation’s second summer of hope and wonder, at home in 1996. By then it was not purely about my compatriots. Five non-England games at Euro 92, capped by Denmark’s final upset of Germany, had given me the tournament bug, confirmed by USA 94.
Seeing 12 matches in a home finals, at six of the eight venues, remains a treasured experience and one commemorated at least twice daily via a “Newcastle Euro 96” keyring. Yet the vivid memories of England’s post-hitting, penalty‑missing exit would be the only ones of a semi-final to sustain me for two more decades.
The last memory of Wednesday 26 June 1996 – of the long, silent trudge to Wembley Park tube station and being aggressively threatened for trying to look for a silver lining – is sadly redolent of what followed far too often, given the behaviour of some of the team’s followers. In Marseille in 1998 there was the sting of teargas; Euro 2000 was as pathetic off the pitch as it was on it, such as the moment I overheard one Brummie telling a Belgian barman matter-of-factly: “If wasn’t for the English you’d be a Kraut.” If you follow England because you love football and the team rather than because you hate other countries, you do find yourself doing an awful lot of apologising on behalf of others; on occasion, the desire to show that not all England fans are obsessed with the second world war and Northern Ireland becomes a justification for putting up with it all.
‘It all” includes successive quarter-final penalty shootout defeats to Portugal, at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup; watching Italy lose a quarter-final shootout to Spain at Euro 2008 (because I go even if England don’t) then seeing the Azzurri win one four years later, against Roy Hodgson’s side in Kiev. Then there’s having to skip the group stages in 2010 and the team coming close to elimination even before I arrived in South Africa, just in time for a 4-1 http://www.officialnewjerseydevils.com/Adidas-Scott-Wedgewood-Jersey defeat by Germany, complete with Frank Lampard’s technology-inspiring disallowed goal.
I wasn’t there all the time. In 2001‑02 my employers were imploding and I feared for my job so did not go to South Korea and Japan; I found out that, yes, I was going to be made redundant one hour after we lost in the quarter-final to Brazil. Brazil 2014 was domestically impossible. Two years ago, though, I was in Nice for the easiest last-16 game anyone could have asked for. I still have my unused vouchers to collect my tickets for England’s Euro 2016 quarter-final, semi-final, final …