Another post about crying, Gallant? And using it as the excuse to not work more on your play revisions? ‘Fraid so.
On Wednesday, England won their semi-final game against Denmark and that puts them into the finals of the Euro 2020 (really 2021, but we didn’t want to waste all the branded merch) tournament on Sunday. England will play Italy. This will be the first time I’ve ever seen England play in a final, the last time being 1966, when I was about 0.5 years old.
Erik wasn’t watching the game, it was just me and Riley. Riley is a better football-watching companion than Erik, with whom I feel a bit like the commentator on Best in Show trying to watch what’s happening while Fred Willard whitters on next to him. Riley only bothers me if she senses that penalties are imminent or I’m yelling at the referee to blow his goddamn whistle before someone jams it so far down his scrawny windpipe he’ll be whistling out the other end. Sorry, Riley. This game was tense, especially during extra time and the ridiculous amounts of injury time added to the 15 minute halves. But it went England’s way and at the end of it all I was a bit overcome and wiping my snot tears on my emotional support dog’s coat when Erik came in:
“Is it over?”
“So England lost?”
Can’t blame him for making the assumption that the other team won. That’s been the story of supporting England for as long as I can remember. It’s become analogous to the British identity – the scepticism that says yes, you’ll scrape through to a certain point but you’ll remain the runners-up at best. ‘If you don’t expect it, you’ll never be disappointed’ is my generation’s Churchillian rally cry. But not surprising really, given that instead of Churchill as our leader we have this twat, who shambled up to the VIP box on Wednesday wearing his oversized England shirt over his office shirt and tie.
Right now all the comparisons are being made to 1996, when England made it through to the semi-finals of Euro ’96 playing Germany. That game finished in a hideous penalty shootout and an even more horrendous save against Gareth Southgate’s penalty, giving Germany the win. Most Brits remember the shock and slight unease of seeing Paul Gascoigne crying but he deserves more credit because it was only a year later that we were all openly sobbing over Diana. And she didn’t even play football.
Even taking into account my 2020 (but really 2021) nostalgia, 1996 felt like such an optimistic time for England, and I don’t think there’s been a period to match it since. It was the height of Britpop and we were zig-a-zig aahing our way through female laddism with Zoe Ball. Tony Blair was on the rise and preparing for election victory for New Labour the following May. I was 30 and joyfully living in Cool Britannia — okay it was Cricklewood but at least I was close to Wembley Stadium. It was a time of great innovation — IKEA’s second UK store opened in Wembley and me and the fiance got our hands on a lovely black ash/particleboard all-in-one drinks cabinet and glass holder. When it was closed up it looked like a fancy tardis (and indeed may have had the Swedish name SIDRAT) and was certainly the talking point of our living room.
One of the biggest songs that year was Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) written and recorded by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel, and the Lightning Seeds. Nobody cared that David Baddiel sounded like he’d been recorded singing in his car at the traffic lights on his way into the office when he was sure no-one was listening. Other football favourites include Vindaloo by Fat Les which I’ve been playing regularly, to the horror of the other house occupants. The England manager in ’96 was Terry ‘El Tel’ Venables. This was a few years after he had all that nasty argy-bargy with Tottenham owner Alan Sugar and ended up in the High Court, being PR repped by the much-loathed (by me) PR director Donna-Maria Cullen. My former boss at Good Relations, Cullen has since been rehabilitated as a Tottenham FC Executive director, but to paraphrase Billy Joel, she’ll always be a bitch to me.
Of course, I was a football fan long before ’96. I was a Liverpool fan from the mid-70s with mad crushes on Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish. I loved Kev’s hair and he reminded me a bit of Pa from Little House. When other girls were buying Jackie magazine, I was buying Shoot Magazine, blue-tacking the centerfold team posters up on my bedroom door and collecting Panini (not the sandwich press) football cards When I was 12 going on 13 I begged my parents for a pair of football boots. They were understandably reluctant due to girls not being allowed to play football in school and my dismal record of ever being picked for anything team-related in the local village. But they relented and I would proudly run up and down the front garden in my Adidas tracksuit for 45 minutes with an inflatable beach ball, only stopping to pull out the nozzle and blow a bit more air into it when it got too deflated. The commentators couldn’t believe my brilliant skills, ‘…and it’s Gallant, she’s passed the defenders, she’s still going, the crowd is roaring her on, Oh my goodness, I think she’s going to score…oh, no, wait, Mrs Gallant is on the sidelines to remind this junior genius to keep her giant feet off the rose beds.’
1982 was the first World Cup I remember being glued to for every game. I was 16. I remember it so well because I had a massive crush on Paolo Rossi who was one of the top goal scorers of that tournament. Not exceptionally handsome, but I hadn’t really had a boyfriend at this point and the name Paolo Rossi just seemed like the perfect boyfriend name. ‘Hello, this is my boyfriend Paolo’. ‘Hello this is Paolo Rossi’s girlfriend, Margaret, but he calls her Mags.’ ‘Hi, I’m Mags Rossi, you might know my Paolo?’ Yep, in every way I practiced it, it worked. Sadly, Paolo died at the end of last year which came as a horrible shock, and quite a surprise to discover that he was only 9 years older than me and thus not a creepy choice at all for a 16-year-old virgin.
So I think it’s fitting that on Sunday, England will play Italy in the finals. Come on, Gareth. Come on England. Erik is banned from the TV room and I have my dog handkerchief at the ready.