Personal Sporting

So Long England, Sorry To See You Go

It’s mad that it should seem like some kind of heresy for an Irishman to admit he hates to see England go out of a major tournament.

But I do.

Every time.

Please don’t stone me or burn me when I say it’s like a light goes out on the whole competition.

A light. There are others still on.

Sure, I love the iconic Brazil lemon and blue and green, and the football, the samba stuff in the crowd and yes, even the exuberant celebration dances from Neymar and the lads.

Sorry, Mr celebration-jumping-over-the-bin High Keano.

Yes, a thousand times, yes, I too am entranced by the  Messi-anic odyssey, am admiring those heroic Moroccans, and the mighty Amrabat, and have revelled in all the drama that has been Qatar 2022.

But England are out.

Not alone that, get your stocks ready now and may I be hung, drawn and quarter-finaled, like poor England, but I have enjoyed this particular incarnation of the men charged with bringing it home so, so much.

Little magicians, Luka Modric and Lionel Messi

I will admit that, like so many others, going into the France match, I thought they were a Harry Maguire cock-up away from another harrowing defeat.

But no, old Slabhead was pretty damn good, actually, and there was so much to admire about their enterprising football and positive approach.

I just loved how the impish small framed Bukayo Sako just seemed to revel in the whole occasion, that fire in his eyes as he metaphorically rolled up his sleeves to take on Hernandez, and the French defence one more time.

Bukayo Saka … gave Theo Fernandez of France hell

Ref didn’t give him much, but up he’d get and do it again.

Poor old Harry K, playing a blinder, and leading the charge heroically, until the moment, it just seemed to get to be too much, and he skied away England’s big chance to equalise, and carry the fight into extra-time and beyond.

Sport is like that, strip away the money and the razzamatazz and it reveals character in all its magnificence, or quaking inhibition.

The petty fouls, the lung-bursting recovery tackles, the thrilling one-two finishes in the box … the fumbles, the f***-ups, the from-another-planet through ball from Messi to set up their first goal against the Dutch, the endlessly inventive Modric, and the gallant Gvardiol … and so on and so on.

The 90-minutes plus of highest Shakespearean drama, as we look on from fevered stands, or from the bouncing sofa in our own Pringles-and-beer-can-strewn living rooms, as some rise to the challenge, and the enormity of it all actually spurs them to operate from a place they might never have though possible, until revealed in the red-heat of battle and engagement, while others balk, or are overwhelmed by a superior adversary.

But England are gone.

And Harry K … this wasn’t the polite, good lad ‘arry loved by the English media, all decency and laboured effort. 

No, this was the guy with Letterfrack roots in the hardscrabble west of Ireland, the guy farmed out on a million loan moves, sitting on a bench at Leicester with the equally indomitable Jamie Vardy, waiting for their chance to show they could do it. 

And by golly, did they …

Such quality about England’s attacking play.

This was heavyweight stuff, senior hurling, worthy adversaries facing off — Holmes had found his Moriarty, and John McClane his Hans Gruber.

Could have gone either way/

Ok, the game didn’t go fantastically well for Phil Foden … flitting in and out between French bodies, trying and trying against a very decent defence.

But there’s something about watching the impish Foden in action, thinking and jinking a million moves a second, that is just so joyous to watch.

I look at him and I see an elf, in Lincoln green with curled up shoes, actual pointed ears, as he skips and darts in between the Christmas tinsel and the mayhem in Santa’s workshop coming up to Christmas Eve.

Phil Foden in full flitting elf flight

And my word, has there ever been a more beautiful exhibition of pure joyful play and abandon, then that brief video of himself and Jack Grealish in some indoor hall, curving and finessing effortless fifty yard passes to each other, not letting the ball hit the floor as they commanded it and demanded it to bounce and flick off a thigh or an instep, like it was a kid’s balloon.

Highly-skilled Boys at play.

And Grealish, eh?

What a lovable character.

Forget the fancy hair and the rolled down socks, and the lovely Jack G calves that have actually made their way into a calendar!!

He is a good, good lad.

What about that goal celebration, and the story behind it and the wonderful exchanges between himself and Finlay, the little boy with the cerebral palsy who wrote to his hero?

And got to meet him, and I looked on with my heart lifted so high, as the €100m Manchester City man just talked to him so naturally and you could just see Jack Grealish the man.

Just lovely.

But England are gone.

Left the building with Gareth the Good, but leaving behind a thousand positive memories.

Roll on the next one.

Thanks for reading — try another one … sure, why not follow my blog?

5 comments on “So Long England, Sorry To See You Go

  1. Thanks for your commiserations and for the great memories. I’ve especially enjoyed the matches where club mates are playing against each other: for my team, on Saturday it was Harry taking penalties against Lloris, and tonight gave us Perisic against Romero. I just wish we didn’t have to keep being subjected to Keane, Souness and Wright!


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