England naysayers be damned: It’s coming home

Here’s a serious question for all those among us who are espousing caution right now ahead of England’s momentous clash with Sweden this Saturday. Who is your caution aimed at and for what purpose?

Is it for the benefit of the gods in the erroneous belief that should a nation get too carried away then karma will surely intervene and wreck cruel havoc? If so, you do realise that millions of years of scientific advancement has thrown up precisely no evidence that superstition has any causal effect beyond blind hope? It is medieval hogwash; as consequential as saluting magpies for good luck.

Are your pleas for pragmatism instead a face-saving exercise to limit gloating from the Scots, Welsh and Irish in the event of defeat at the Cosmos Arena? It’s an utterly joyless thought but maybe that’s it? And if that is indeed your intention here’s some earth-shattering news – every Englishman woman and child could declare on social media that they think Gareth Southgate’s men will be undone this weekend and their bordering neighbours will still be revelling noisily in that very outcome.

No, I can’t believe it’s that. That is just too daft for words. So perhaps it’s a third option, one that is equally as ludicrous but given the heightened sense of importance we all have these days from sending our thoughts into the electronic abyss it’s an explanation that fits.

Are you under the mistaken impression that Uncle Gary’s optimism; and Lee down the pub insisting that ‘it’s coming home’; and all of the giddy excitement flowing through cyberspace might actually have an effect on the players? That a tweet suggesting that a repeat of 1966 is all but in the bag may be seen by Kyle Walker in the bubble of England’s training camp outside of Samara and subconsciously this complacency rubs off on him and he drops his concentration levels by 1% which Marcus Berg takes full advantage of?

I really hope it’s not the latter option. Because that would be absolutely insane.

And yet there must be something at the heart of this hand-wringing that is so prevalent at present, from the buzz-kills who are not only depriving themselves of enjoying one of the funnest sporting summers in living memory but are also intent on pissing on our parade too.

Maybe the answer is as straightforward as it gets – that they are, by nature, a bunch of negative nellies – which results in them talking with the neutrality of football managers giving post-match interviews: “We have a terrible record against Sweden so let’s just take things one game at a time”.

No, not a chance. Let’s not take things one game at a time. Let’s get stupidly excited and widen our eyes to the glorious view of the big picture opening up before us because right now an exceedingly likeable England team are two coin-flips away from reaching a World Cup final. History is a stretch of a fingertip away and because of this an infectious, feel-good factor is sweeping across a country that was recently entrenched in political division.

St. George’s flags are fluttering from cars and draped from house windows, people are upbeat and smiling to each other and what is more the sun is blazing and the beer is cold.

Which begs another question – if we can’t get carried away with all of this then when the hell can we?

This is our privilege as a football fan and it’s a privilege we have very much earned from following clubs that induce misery upon us, rarely failing to let us down and all while we shell out a small fortune to witness it happening. We’ve paid our dues and what is more we will pay for more next season. Right now though – and against our most optimistic of expectations – our national side is excelling in the biggest tournament in the world and that’s resulted in a realistic shot at glory; a free-roll to experiencing a wild dream and even wilder party to follow.

If Harry Kane and the lads prevail on Saturday we not only have a highly dramatic semi-final ahead – one that will grip the nation to the point of families watching as one – but plausibly too an echoing of the summer of 1990, where the good vibes and patriotism was such an intoxicating combination it had the tabloids and politicians left on the periphery. It was us who had the power. The mood of the nation.

As someone old enough to remember that brief time – that indirectly led to the fall of Thatcherism, a positivity cloaking our national game, and a restorative pride in who we are – I embrace the 50% chance of its return. It exhilarates me wholly and more so I have every intention of relishing every moment of this until it’s gone.

And should England lose then, hey, we can all go back to being our usual miserable selves.

That won’t happen though. It’s coming home.

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