Anyone who knows me will tell you of my sheer passion for football. I’ve been a season ticket holder at Aston Villa for 19 years now, and I can’t ever envisage being without it.
And yet, as the biggest feast of football on earth gets underway, you must forgive me if I feel underwhelmed. The simplest way I can sum it up is it’s akin to somebody who spends their life watching proper bands at small gig venues before finding themselves at a Take That concert at Wembley Stadium – everyone loves them, and you kind of have to admit that they are quite good, but somehow it just doesn’t seem ‘proper’.
So, what are the reasons for feeling like this?
It’s supporting a team containing wastes of oxygen like Ashley Cole and John Terry and money grabbing liars like Gareth Barry, led by a cheating thug like Steven Gerrard (football’s own OJ Simpson).
It’s the jingostic hype, generated mainly by people who don’t even follow the game – where patriotism becomes racism.
It’s the stupid songs in the pub. “There were 12 German Bombers in the air…” / “Two World Wars and one World Cup…” / “No surrender to the IRA…” – SHUT. UP. YOU. EMBARRASSMENTS.
It’s the fact that people somehow believe we have a God-given right to win the damn thing.
It’s crap songs like James Corden and Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Shout’ perpetuating popular culture’s myth of what football fans are actually like. (Genuine true fact: In 20 years of going to football, I have NEVER heard the chant ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ – it exists only in bandwagoning pop music)
It’s the fact that I kind of want to see James Milner do badly in order to give Villa a better chance of keeping him.
It’s the fact that when we do go out, somebody is going to have their lives made a misery by The Sun newspaper. It may be an England player, maybe one of the opposition. In recent years, it seems mainly to have been referees. But somebody will face the witchhunt.
Aside from England for a moment, it’s the fact France are in the World Cup and Ireland aren’t.
It’s seeing people who usually have no interest in the game suddenly deciding they’re experts on its finer points. Cue the regurgitation of statistics they memorised from that morning’s paper.
It’s the fact that, if England do win a big game, it’s all backslapping and everyone’s happy. Part of the fun is the bragging rights, the feeling that, when you do succeed, it’s special just to you and yours and not to everyone. International Football lacks the feelings of pride and envy that club football heralds. Euro 2008 was brilliant because England weren’t there, everyone supported different teams, and we got to enjoy some of that division based rivalry these tournaments usually lack.
It’s the fact the hype will get worse if England somehow do win the bloody thing…
More than anything, it’s the fact that given the choice between England winning the World Cup, or Villa winning away at Wigan on a cold Tuesday night in February, I’d pick the Villa every single time.
And yet, I’ve bought my England shirts, I’ll be going in to town to watch the match later, and I reserve the right to be a complete hypocrite when I inevitably get swept away in it all.
All I want is for us to show a little dignity… is that too much to ask?