No-one really knows agony like an England football supporter. The last time the country won a major international football tournament was 46 years ago, before I was even born. On the eve of their first group match for Euro 2012, for the fans, it’s time to take a big deep breath and brace ourselves for what’s to come.
I’ve seen enough tournaments now to know how the story goes. In the build up to a major tournament, there will usually be some kind of managerial crisis. Invariably a foreign man who gets paid more in a year than most people earn in a lifetime suddenly decides that it’s all been too much and they would rather go and do something easier. Then a pause whilst FIFA contemplates its navel for a while before the announcement of the next high-profile name to bring glory to England. I certainly don’t envy them the task. Nor do I envy them the inevitable attention of the tabloid media.
The qualification process usually goes fairly well. Many teams would be highly envious of England’s record in the games leading up to the Euro or the World cup. As we get closer to the main event, things start to unravel. There will be at least one dressing room scandal. One player or another will succumb to “dodgy ball control” and end up sleeping with another player’s wife / girlfriend / sister / mother and the whole team will be thrown into disarray.
Just before squad gets announced, there will be a flurry of injuries. At least one of them will be a broken metatarsal. All of them will be players seen as crucial to England’s chances in the tournament. The England team have always been a bit asymmetrical and the manager will come up with some new wacky and zany formation just so he can accommodate the plethora of talent in the middle.
The group stages will be agonising. Somehow the team will limp through but not without another injury and the star player earning a red card. Inevitably, they will finish in the wrong place in the group meaning that they face the strongest teams in succession in the knockout stages. This is when we all start to feel false hope. We dismiss the poor performance so far as nerves and the team getting used to a new formation. We start to think we are only a handful of games away from glory. Surely it must be our turn this time?
Then the real agony begins. We come out in red strips for the first game – always a good sign. Our hopes soar with an early goal putting us into the lead which is good because we kid ourselves that we always win if we score first. If the other team scores first, that’s OK too. Some of our greatest victories have suffered the odd hiccup – remember Dunkirk?
But before too long the inevitable happens. We crash out of the tournament and all the fans sink into the pits of despair. Only to do it all again next time.
Come on England!