IT’S a bit on the chilly side again but my cockles have been well and truly warmed up by talk of us hosting more games in this summer’s Euros. Or last summer’s Euros, to be more precise.
In fact, to hell with it — let’s bring the whole tournament here, shall we?
Let’s get Euros back here then win, on penalties, with Gareth in chargeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
After all, there are those of the opinion that to host it across Europe in a dozen different cities might not have been the correct decision at the best of times.
It’s a crying shame we didn’t have VAR available when that call was made.
Then we could have checked to see if a clear and obvious error had been made. I suspect it had.
And that was before any of us had even heard the word “Covid”.
What an aberration against common sense, let alone environmental issues.
Consider the plight of, say, a group of avid Wales fans in Holyhead piling on to a minibus for the journey to the venue for their first two games.
England manager Gareth Southgate during the 2018 FIFA World CupCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
England fans celebrate during the 2018 FIFA World CupCredit: Getty – Contributor
Nice and convenient to have both of those matches in the same place, by the way.
However, that host city is Baku, Azerbaijan. The satnav on that minibus would have told them they had more than 3,000 miles to cover, taking well over 60 hours. And from there to game three in Rome, another journey only slightly shorter.
Enough of this nonsense. Bring football home. One in eight of the competing nations are British anyway.
There are more ifs and buts here than in the most controversial offside decision.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if it happened? What a summer 1996 was.
It was a great time to be alive. I doubt anyone with even the vaguest interest in football was not touched emotionally by what unfolded.
It didn’t matter whether you were in the grounds or watching on television. It was in the air.
While England’s footballers were taking Spain to penalties at Wembley, I was at Lord’s, watching England’s cricketers playing India. The great Dickie Bird was one of the umpires, standing in his final Test match.
I think somebody was running up to bowl when a huge roar went up around the home of cricket.
A few miles across North London, Stuart Pearce had scored his penalty.
Dickie, ever the loveable curmudgeon, shrugged grumpily in exasperation as we celebrated.
Oasis on stage at their epic Knebworth concertCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
If we hadn’t been making such a racket, we would probably have heard the roar Pearce gave when he put that one away.
I had another dog in the race. My mum is Croatian and this was Croatia’s first tournament as an independent nation.
I travelled up from London to Sheffield to see us play Denmark at Hillsborough on a bus packed with emotional Croats.
We were all behind the goal at the end Croatia were attacking in the second half.
On 90 minutes Davor Šuker scored to make it 3-0, with one of the most sublime chips ever executed. We watched it sail over Peter Schmeichel’s head right in front of us.
I went absolutely berserk, earning myself a stern rebuke from a Yorkshire copper.
Assuming I couldn’t speak English he said, very slowly: “You. Must. Calm. Down. Please.” I did my best.
But football gives and takes away. Croatia were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals.
Scotland had already had their hearts broken at Wembley by England, who then — as if you needed reminding — lost there to Germany in the semi-finals.
I’ll take two memories of that game with me to my grave: Gazza lunging in to score but missing the ball by a distance so tiny I doubt there was equipment available at the time to measure it properly; and a tearful Gareth Southgate walking away after his penalty was saved.
For England fans, I don’t think we’ll ever be over that night until we’ve got the whole tournament back here, and won it — preferably on penalties, with Gareth in charge.
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner will be there too, as the whole stadium — indeed, the whole country — sings their song.
Boris Johnson hopes to kick start a summer of fun and a ‘bonanza’ decade of footballCredit: PA:Press Association
As Noel Gallagher says in the documentary film Oasis: Supersonic, it was simply a great time to be alive.
Noel was talking about their massive Knebworth concerts later that summer . . . but what he says about those shows could apply just as much to the festival of football that had finished a month or so earlier: “It was the pre-digital age . . . I always thought it was the last great gathering of the people before the birth of the internet.”
If that is the case, it would be brilliantly apt if the first great gathering of the people after the darkest days of the pandemic was here, at the Euros, in the UK.
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