Well that’s it then. England dumped out of the European Championship by Italy, losing, as always, on penalties. The pundits have delivered their verdicts on the team and managers’ performances and mostly they agree that we did OK. As well as could be expected, given the circumstances, seems to be the mantra. The fans supported the team in fair numbers, with great gusto and spirit. No trouble, either, other than a bit of a rumble in deepest Bedfordshire!
One of the comments heard repeatedly ad naseum wherever the tournament was being discussed was “well expectations weren’t very high” or words to that effect. Now that got me wondering. It is certainly true that the flag-waving derilium of some previous episodes was slightly watered down this time, but I suspect that many of us still carried a deep lying hope that we might do well; we may even for goodness sake, win the frigging thing. But we didn’t want to express that hope too publicly to others, or even perhaps, ourselves. For to admit hope is to open yourself to the hurt of disappointment. Previous chastening experiences following England in various tournaments has affected us all badly. We can all remember where we were when Waddle missed that penalty, Gascoigne that chance, or Green that save. We don’t want to feel like that again. So let’s not hope.
Except we can’t stop hoping. Hope isn’t a rational thought that you can control and channel. It’s an heartfelt emotion that burst through and colours the way we respond to anticipated events. At the start of every football season each fan is consumed with blind hope. You have to believe you will succeed, even though the logic of such belief may be completely without foundation.That sense of hope has strong roots. The game of football ignited from the need of ordinary men and women in England to rise above their circumstances. To play. Every Saturday morning my grandfather walked from Rawtenstall in the the Lancashire cotton industry dominated Rossendale valley to Burnley (picture of Turf Moor below) a distance of eight miles. He walked in his best suit with tie, flat cap and pipe a merrily blowing. The sense of community and identity engendered in those days lives on. The wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself, but something that everyone else following your team believes in. And its that feeling that hope springs from.
And it doesn’t die. It can be denied, or lie dormant. But sooner or later it pops up again, springing eternal.
So now, about that next World Cup…………………………….???