Come on England etc.

The World Cup is on. I’m getting excited. I am. As long-time followers of this blog will know, I take perverse pleasure in writing about the World Cup – not match reports, exactly, more like reviews – and if I’m going to do it again, as I am minded to, please can we get this out of the way first:

I do not follow football. I don’t have a team. As a boy, I never went to see the Cobblers play, although I followed league football with fervour and could draw every club badge from memory, as well as name every squad. I supported Liverpool, and then Leeds, and to know why I switched you’ll have to read the Leeds Mug chapter of Where Did It All Go Right?, which is available for 1p on Amazon. I realise I am every true football fan’s worst nightmare: someone who takes a keen interest in football once ever two years ie. for the international tournaments. For these, I throw myself into the stats and personnel and even fill in the scores in my Guardian guide. (Oh my God, he uses the Guardian guide, too!) It’s a bracing thing to do. But if I followed football on a religious, weekly basis, I would find me irritating or even heretical. But please don’t. I won’t be standing in a pub pretending I know all about football. I won’t be pretending anywhere. I’ll be at home, watching the matches, and, more sacrelige, not supporting England in the way that other English people do; I shall be following their progress with interest and enthusiasm, but not to the point where I will paint my face, fly a flag, or weep when they go out. I actually like watching the other teams more. I’m particularly fond of the African and Eastern European nations. I liked both France and Italy in 2006, and enjoyed the final – until Zidane did the stupid thing – without partisanship. I do not hate the Germans, either.

I enjoy the nature of the TV coverage, identifying the voices of the commentators and pundits, picking up on their cliches, and I love the roar of the crowd, even when it’s through the speakers of my TV. You won’t find me watching football in public. But I do cheer and boo at home. Especially if I’ve had a small beer. And I do shout at the screen.

Here is my review of the 2006 final. If you scout around previous entries, you can read other reviews and get a flavour of how a football lightweight covers such a tournament. Also, Euro 2008 is covered.

I notice this year that the Hammersmith Odeon – and yes, that’s what it’s still called to anyone over 30 – are showing the World Cup matches live, on a big HD screen (“equivalent in size to four Routemaster London buses”), surround sound, for free. (Actually there’s a £3.25 booking fee per ticket, but it’s free after that.) . 

England’s Group C matches against the USA (12 June), Algeria (18 June) and Slovenia (23 June) will all be on, as will other England matches as the team, ahem, progresses through the tournament.  Tickets are available here if you’re in the London area. It is called the HMV Apollo, by the way. I know!

I won’t be there, as I fear my lack of footballing knowledge would be sniffed out and I may be killed. But if you’re also a fairweather football fan – or you’re a proper fan and don’t feel the need to patronise me – join me!


13 thoughts on “Come on England etc.

  1. I’m looking forward to reading these Andrew. I may not be able to read them until I am back from holiday though, in South Africa!

  2. I feel the same, to an extent. Whereas you follow England with enthusiasm I try to forget about them. I love the other teams way of playing football far too much to waste time watching England.

    Good blog, by the way.

  3. Hey Andrew,

    I would like to think that I’m a ‘true football fan’ – I’ve had a season ticket at my (non-Premier League) team’s ground for the last 12 years, have followed them at home and abroad etc etc (I could go on with more ‘credentials’ but it would quickly become very boring). You’re not my ‘worst nightmare’. The World Cup is something quite different from the weekly ritual of league football. It’s pure *theatre* and as such should be experienced differently, and by different/additional groups of people.

    (Which is not to say that there aren’t theatrical aspects of domestic football. But they tend to be more of the gritty kitchen-sink drama type, whereas the WC is more overblown camp / glitzy costumes / occasional farce)

    So I think it’s great that more people get into the World Cup. And yes, it can be annoying when people pretend to know about football when they clearly don’t, but there are lots of people like you who are prepared to just enjoy it without feeling the need to prove themselves*. So, enjoy!

    Additionally…. I, like many football supporters, have occasionally been to watch England games but have been turned off the experience by the attitudes and behaviour of *some* (NB not all!) England fans. (I remember watching England play Poland at the old Wembley and hearing a chant directed at the opposing fans: “Where were you in World War 2?”. Well, stuck between Germany and Russia without 26 miles of water to protect them, I think is the answer.) So, frankly, if the World Cup can help – along with the many good-hearted England supporters who do follow the team at home and abroad – to dilute that tendency, by bringing people to the party who understand that it’s possible to join in a national mood of excitement without tipping over into jingoism – then that has to be a good thing IMHO.

    *I once had a boss who had no interest in any form of sport, but one time made a decision to try and ‘relate’ to her employees by conversing about it. The day after the 1998 WC 2nd round tie against Argentina – in which, you’ll recall, a certain midfielder was sent off and England ended up losing on penalties – she came into the office (full of very grumpy England fans), stood in the middle of the room, took a deep sigh and said “Tch! Bloody Beckman”. Bless.

  4. Bless you Andrew.

    I will taking two weeks off work for the group stages and set myself the task of watching every match.

    Food, exercise and social commitments will have to work their way around the football.

    Those who don’t like football are going to have a pretty hellish month starting Friday.

  5. I’ve seen more proper live football matches in Germany than I have the UK (2 there, 1 here) due to the antics of the left wing football team St. Pauli. Their mosh pit when the home team scores, openly gay chairman & anti-racist stance are so far removed from English football that you can’t help but get caught up in it.

    A team I have seen play a lot is Brownhills town. They used to play their home matches on a field by my parents and if you walked the dogs at the right time then you could watch the match too. I used to enjoy the fact that the players had real jobs too.

    Like Mr. AC I’ll be watching the world cup in parts (almost got a Freeview HD receiver too) but I do love supporting the smaller nations – usually Japan and whoever I get in the work sweepstake – more than the UK.

    That said watching the England Portugal match on the main stage at Glastonbury (Paul McCartney Year) was a fantastic & surreal experience.

    And if all goes well my Fiance’s dad will be instrumental in helping the bankrupt Bromsgrove Rovers be resurrected as Bromsgrove Rouslers so i’ll have to go see a very non-league team start from the bottom and claw their way up. Could be good fun.

    The only person an Englishman loves more than another Englishman is an underdog.

  6. Andrew

    Having read one of your books and the fact that you’ve supported more than one football club, i will not take any football blogs seriously



    p.s. love your other stuff

  7. I LOVE the World Cup I don’t much care for football the rest of the time, but the World Cup
    is ace!

    Looking forward to your reviews as a result, they sound perfect.

  8. Last World Cup I seem to remember you took from stick early on for praising Peter Crouch. Some people in the know were keen to tell you that Crouch was rubbish, and don’t you even know that yet, etc. That’s as I remember it anyway. I think there’s a lot to be said for people reporting what they see, rather than filtering everything through what they already think they know. Reporting on Westminster could probably do with a bit of that too. (Although sometimes the other kind of reporting is fun too.)

    Went past a house today where they’ve painted a very neat red cross on their white garage door. I don’t know why it should be – I don’t think it’s just snobbishness – but for some reason this made me feel more depressed and more empty than I’ve felt in months, possibly years. A hellish month indeed. And I turn 40 the day before it all kicks off.

  9. Hi Andrew,

    Shoulders with you on this (do people still say that?). I’m probably considered a proper football fan in that I go to matches, but to be honest I feel a bit of a fraud because I feel my knowledge is lacking somewhat, despite having watched the game for 30 odd years. Anyway, I look at football, and indeed any sport, in a similar way to how I view my attraction to songs and films, ie I feel I know what a nice pass, a fine save, a good goal is without knowing much about what actually goes into the production of said moves and can thus express a valid opinion as such. The first WC I watched was 1978, ie without England, and it was brilliant, and thus any subsequent ones involving our national side have been somewhat ruined because that’s mostly what gets talked about, at the expense of lots of other fantastic stuff. To my mind, people like you and me who follow all teams every other year in the WC ane ECs are more genuine that those who just jump on the England bandwagon every few years. So I shall be looking forward to your posts muchly.

  10. As someone who wholeheartedly supports my football club with a probably stupid level of dedication, finances and time, I can honestly say I feel nothing for the national team. I love these tournaments because I love football, but I won’t be supporting England as such.

    I look forward to your take on it all Andrew as an independent thinker rather than someone blindly following the hype. Bring on some entertaining football!

  11. Andrew, this is no different (as I see it) as you going to see Sex in the City with a load of (drunk?) women. You cannot help but be caught up in the ‘spectacle’ than really care if the script is that good or if the story is interesting.

    Every year the Rugby Six Nations elicits exactly the same ‘fair weather’ fans (myself included who could give two hoots about club rugby but love international rugby), for football I am the opposite. I don’t follow a football team per se, but am interested in the ‘gritty kitchen sink drama’ (as one of your earlier commenters put it) of the Premier League. International Football? Nah…not interested that much. But just like cinema (where I stopped going to watch films a while ago as I found it all rather tedious) I still get sucked in by those that really do ‘live’ this stuff.

    A kind of geek’s geek.

    I look forward to your reviews/comments on the World Cup, I just hope (and I sure you won’t) that you don’t *try* to understand it as a true fan would. There is something rather ‘lovely’ about the ‘Beckman’ story above that I hope occasionally comes over in your writing during the next month or so.

    Have fun!

  12. As a lapsed Man City fan ( I finally abandoned them after 30 odd years when the big BIG money came in and turned it into a neverending sport themed episode of Dallas) and now watch non league Bridport (season ticket and proud sponsor).I love the world cup, hate watching England play although I desperately want them to win but am always slightly strangely guiltily releived when the inevitable happens and they lose on penalties to Germany I can then enjoy the theatre (as opposed to pantomime)that is the world cup without the angst.
    also its the only time that my wife sits down and watches football with me which means a lot to me

  13. Fantastic news, as I probably said last time it’s refreshing reading the views of football neutrals and freethinkers. Simon Barnes wrote recently about how football punditry is now the preserve of ex-pros and how that’s pushed out the spectator’s viewpoint; your reviews are from the position of the purest possible spectator. Absolutely fitting too to only review the international tournaments which retain more magic and romance than the Premier/Champions League, which seem increasingly like a tedious rotation of the top players and managers going wherever the money lures them. Personally I get too tense and pessimistic watching England for it to be enjoyable but love watching the other games, and being able to comment here makes it even better.

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