I’ve tried to ignore it, vowed not to write about it, but I can’t really ignore it any longer.
So if by writing this I somehow manage to jinx it, I’m sorry.
With apologies and deference to my Welsh, Scottish and Irish friends (and you lot over in that Europe thing), tonight a pretty big thing is happening in the world of sport.
The mens’ England football team have made it to a final of a tournament for the first time since 1966.
I imagine this comes as a surprise to you. It’s barely been mentioned in the mass media over the past couple of weeks.
And this is why I have issued a rallying call to many of my non-English friends: support us tonight, because if we win, we just might shut up about having won the World Cup once. (We won’t, of course. We’ll continue to bang on about that and this as the greatest triumphs in our history, along with a couple of World Wars, conveniently glossing over the colonialism and slavery that we definitely weren’t part of.)
The other week I mentioned in passing the age old discussion about which is the better England football song, this (from 1990):
…or this, from 1996:
Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds – Three Lions
(Incidentally, nobody ever sings the less “30 years of hurt”-centric version from 1998, do they? I watched England v Columbia (2-0) and England v Argentina (1-1, Argentina won on penalties) in a pub in Nottingham with my old friends Daints and Louise. After the Columbia game, I was challenged by a local drunkard to sing-a-long to both versions. I won, obviously. Can’t quite recall what the prize was, for some reason….)
OK, I can’t let that reference slide past:
Kirsty MacColl – England 2 Columbia 0
The reason that its these two songs – World in Motion and Three Lions – which come up in competition against each other as being the Best Football Song…Ever! is, in my book, clear: neither of them make the mistake of referencing players in the England squad for the tournament being sung about.
I’m sure this is the main reason that this is not viewed equally fondly (although the “Gerard to Beckham…” coda is my favourite bit of this):
Both songs are brilliant for different reasons. World in Motion is technically the better song (even if it was an old throwaway New Order song, given new life by Keith Allen and a John Barnes rap), but Three Lions is the far superior terrace sing-a-long.
One of them now has a distinct disadvantage though, for, just like when politicians try to earn credibility points by claiming to like bands they think they should like (see Gordon Brown and the Arctic Monkeys, David Cameron and The Smiths), as England have progressed through the competition, so we have seen growing numbers of politicians suddenly try to gain some column inches by grabbing on the coat-tails of something popular in the hope that some of that love and admiration displayed by the public to the football team, may in some may rub-off on them.
I’m so sorry, I appear to have used the phrase “rub-off on them” just as I’m about to post a link to Jacob Rees-Mogg. For the record, please do not rub anything off, on, near or whilst looking at Rees-Mogg.
1-0 to Three Lions, because I don’t think I can ever listen to World in Motion again after that.
But then there are problems with the very title of the Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds smasheroo:
1-1, and it’s looking more and more like We’re On The Ball taking over.
Anyway, the slew of (mostly Conservative) MPs jumping on the bandwagon of supporting the England team has been a truly nauseous sight. King of these charlatans was Boris, who turned up at Wembley dressed as most football fans do, with an England shirt over the top of a shirt and tie:
Boris doesn’t care about football. Boris cares about photo-opportunities. He was, rightly called out by Gary Neville in a bit of marvellous punditry where he compared Johnson’s record and professional demeanour with the current England manager, Gareth Southgate:
Boris wasn’t alone in climbing on this particular bandwagon. Here’s Priti Patel, daughter of immigrants, who earlier in the tournament said this:
Which makes all of her subsequent tweets, such as this one from Wednesday night, seem all the more disingenuous:
She may be wearing an England shirt, but there’s no evidence here that she’s watching the match. I suspect that, just out of shot, is a man holding up photos of babies – of colour, obviously – drowning as they and their parents raft goes down as they try to escape the horrible world from which they came.
For this week, Patel has been banging on about the new Borders Bill, passed through the House of Commons this week, which *ahem* gives us back control of our borders (this which, as you all know by now, we already had before Brexit but couldn’t be bothered to implement by way of funding properly).
Amongst other things, the Bill makes it illegal to help or assist anyone that you know or suspect to be a potential immigrant to get to our shores safe and sound. So were you to be out in the Channel in a boat, and you came across a load of immigrants on a disintegrating raft, you are now forbidden to help them. You must, says the Bill, leave them to drown, or you will be prosecuted for saving them.
Which makes the RNLI’s job a lot trickier.
So, if Priti Patel had her way, this is how the current England team would line up:
I mean, it’d be tense match, but I don’t rate our chances of scoring too highly.
And to clarify, here’s the rest of the starting eleven’s roots, all banned under Patel’s blinkered thought process:
What I’m saying is this: you don’t get to encourage people to boo the England football team, and then try to wrap yourself in the glow of their success. People remember this sort of thing.
Patel may win the Most Hypocritical MP of the Month – or pretty much any month, as it goes, but she doesn’t win the Stupidest MP of the Month award, for that can only go to Lee Anderson, who refused to accept that the England players taking the knee before kick off, in a show of unity against all forms of inequality, was their reason for doing so – despite them issuing a formal statement to explain their motivation – and had vowed not to watch any of the England matches in protest:
Excuse my language, but what a fucking idiot. I’m glad he’s missing out on all of this (although I’ll bet he’s watching really).
Anyway, when it comes to discussing which is the best football song ever, I always find it hard to get past this one:
The Scotland World Cup Squad 1982 – We Have a Dream
Although, from the same tournament, the first I can remember watching, this – bar the mention of the squad being ‘Ron [Greenwood]’s 22’, which if you try really hard can be changed to ‘Southgate’s 22’ anyway – seems much more appropriate:
The England World Cup Squad 1982 – This Time (We’ll Get It Right)
Although, were there any justice in this world – which there isn’t – then this, from 2010, would be our go-to England record every time. There’s only two things wrong with this: firstly, the Shuttleworth referred to isn’t John, and secondly: it’s not actually very good.
Which makes it perfect in some ways, no?
Shuttleworth And Mark E Smith – England’s Heartbeat
Oh, you want a prediction, do you?
Well, as my workmates will doubtless attest, I’ve been less than optimistic all tournament, and have happily been proved wrong all the way through.
In all honesty, I can’t see us beating Italy, who have looked imperious since Game 1, and have only grown stronger since. Were I a betting man, then my money would be on an Italy win.
Of course I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong again.
But just in case, should my prediction come true, then I always have this in my back pocket:
Brian Clough & Friends – It’s Only a Game
I don’t believe that for one second, and I’m pretty sure Cloughie didn’t either.
I hope we don’t need that come Sunday evening.
Whatever happens, if you own an Italian car, I’d make sure it’s parked in the garage tonight.