We’ve all invested far too much time, money and effort to give up on the England dream
It’s the hope that people refuse to give up on, the dream that won’t go away, a story missing its final chapters: the England football team’s pursuit of glory.
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner will now have to sing “50 years of hurt” if they are persuaded to release another version of Three Lions for the 2016 European Championships in France.
When that famous song was penned, could they have imagined we would still be wearily singing it 18 years later?
Instead, England’s semi-final defeat at Euro 96 looks more glorious with each passing tournament failure.
Yet the passion and hope refuse to die.
Ahead of this summer’s World Cup we all seemed to be accepting the fact that England were unlikely to emerge from a tough group, that Roy Hodgson was building for the future, that supporters shouldn’t get their hopes up.
Yet once again houses, pubs and cars have proudly flown England flags and shops have sold all manner of England merchandise bearing the cross of St George, from pencil cases to lunchboxes and footballs to t-shirts.
US politicians loves to talk about ‘the American Dream’ of freedom and equality. Well the English Dream is far more simple: we want our football team to win something, anything.
I dared to cross the drawbridge out of Norfolk to watch England’s first group match, a narrow 2-1 defeat to Italy, but returned to the comforts of home for the second match.
The Black Swan in North Walsham was my chosen venue for the decisive clash with Uruguay, which turned out to be another narrow 2-1 defeat.
The pub’s function rooms – famously known as the Sweat Box locally – were as packed as always, with a passionate support intent on having a good time, whether England followed suit or not.
Once again the bubble of hope was burst at full-time and I was again asking myself why we all do it? Why we get our hopes up every time? Why we refuse to give up?
Just like I was asking myself after the quarter-final defeat to Brazil in 2002, the losing penalty shoot-out defeats to Portugal in 2004 and 2006, the 4-1 defeat to Germany in South Africa in 2010 and the penalty shootout defeat to Italy in 2012.
Is it a siege mentality? Us against the world, all in it together, hoping for our luck to finally change? Maybe, but is this tournament the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back? Has our spirit been broken? No chance.
If Hodgson can get his young team to bounce back from this disappointment and set their sights on glory in France in two years time, that hope will soon return.
The flags of St George will be flying again in the summer of 2016, the pubs of Norfolk will be packed with supporters desperate to see England perform well and hoping that 50 years of hurt will come to an end.
We have all invested far too much time, money and effort to give up on our dream – the same dream we all have, of parties in the street, of a nation united, of setting the clock back to zero. Andy Murray put an end to 76 years of waiting for another British men’s singles champion at Wimbledon last year – proving that such daunting weight of expectation can be met.
It may seem daft, particularly to those not keen on football, but there is no turning back now – we’ve already come too far.
We proved we can be the best in the world in 1966 and we must never stop trying to replicate those glorious days.
Do you agree or is your passion for the England team dying? Leave a comment below, tweet @davefreezer or email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.