Friday, June 09, 2006


Not Another World Cup Post

Club or Country?

In those distant days when I still lived in England, Thatcher was PM and George Graham was shaking things up at Arsenal where the North Bank was still a terrace, supporting my country came a long way behind the Arse. Indeed it came a long way behind whoever my adopted second team was at the time and even my ultimately futile attempt to join the 92 Club. It wasn’t that I didn’t like England, I remember as a 10 year old buying the first Admiral kit under Revie, but even back then I realized I couldn’t loyally serve 2 mistresses. It was the Arsenal, they were week in week out. England came and went in a flurry of back page headlines but we still had Wilf Rostron.

I remember that sleepless night as a 13 year old before my first visit to Wembley on a school trip. Up the M3, battling the North Circular to see us battle Luxemburg, and tonk them 5-0, we were all dead excited. Most of us had never been to a match before but I was already a terrace veteran. Not only did I buy Shoot every week but I had a growing programme collection, had been to 2 first division grounds, Highbury and White Hart Lane, and went to Aldershot pretty often. Yeap, I was the old hand on the bus in terms of grounds and games and of course Wembley just couldn’t compete with Highbury. How could it? There was a bloody dog track round the pitch!

But I was lacking in enthusiasm for the national team. Maybe it was the lack of Arsenal players in the squad. We were crap in those days, John Matthews and Pat Howard didn’t get many call ups for some reason. As I grew, as I went to more games, as I rationed out the money England slipped down the list of priorities. Brazil, Argentina, Germany? Forget it lah, gimme a League Cup at Goodison on a Tuesday night every time.

Maybe it was Wembley itself I didn’t like. The large car parks, over priced souvenirs, RUOK4ADDB4KO adverts, not for me thanks. I didn’t like the national anthem, I didn’t like changing at Baker Street, I didn’t like Phil Neal. All this discouraged me, stopped me picking up the phone and say hey lads, are we up for this? We had Colin Hill but he was Arsenal. He was crap, a git but he was an Arsenal git. Phil Neal, he was someone else’s git and I was buggered if I was going to waste all that money cheering on other teams gits.

Sometimes I’d watch the games on TV but only sometimes. I just couldn’t be arsed. If we won, nice one lads, if we lost, well I really didn’t give a rubber duck. My emotion was spent seeing us lose at home to Coventry.

After I moved abroad I went to a couple of away games. Australia in ’91 was in truth more of a home game for me than any feast at Wembley. I could walk to the stadium, I worked there sometimes. The next, and last time was Katowice in a World Cup qualifier a couple of years later. That was a laugh, the football incidental to the trip. I had planned on getting to Oslo as well but drank so much in Prague and Poland I was skint and returned home minus my flag which some cocky young Pole half inched while I was pissing the first half away.

Euro ’96 was spent in Nana Plaza where an off duty Thai copper waved a gun in my face after I told him to sit shown and shut the fuck up. France ’98 I slept through though we did try to find the Argie Embassy after they beat us. I have no idea what we would have done had we found the place. Perhaps written them a stern letter.

People following football had changed. Face painters, brass bands and other crap was muscling the traditional fan to the sidelines and that was further reason to keep away. Some plastic chairs were thrown in 2000 but I have no idea who we played or what the scores were. Or who won the tournament. I really wasn’t interested.

Now we are on the eve of a new World Cup in beloved Germany. I met some Germans in Katowice that trip who were following England. They liked the aggression, the party atmosphere with us but whether they would be so keen on the painted crowd is debatable. I have no idea who we played in the qualifiers but I know we have Peter Crouch and I’m sorry I just can’t take him seriously. Git but he’s not my git so I don’t care. If Crouchie plays for England so can I.

I’ll be watching the England games, maybe one or two others but that’s it. Ask a Sunderland fan which he would prefer, staying up or England winning the World Cup and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess the answer. Roll on August but in the meantime Come
On England

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