Reclaiming The Ensign?

I begin this prose with a woolly head, consequential of yesterday evening’s celebrations following England’s progression to the final of Euro 2020. A hard fought victory over Denmark, setting up a game with Italy on Sunday to secure European football champions bragging rights.

National fever born from Gareth Southgate’s boys’ achievement seemingly a catalyst to new governmental edicts stating no English radio or TV show can broadcast without, at some juncture, including England’s footballing anthem ‘It’s Coming Home’.

The euphoria in my nation is tangible; this longed for homecoming whipping up a frenzy of patriotism which’s afforded the populace an opportunity to claim back the flag of St George. An ensign whose use is ordinarily frowned upon for its racial connotations introduced by less lugubrious patriots.

Footnote – For the uninitiated, the English are singing about football coming home after decades of England not winning a major tournament. Not chanting jingoistic reverence to a returning fugitive from justice (like, say, Lord Lucan), or an errant father’s return after learning a child they abandoned at birth was now worth a few quid in adulthood.

Further Footnote – As Lord Lucan probably carked it many years ago, the chances of him returning to Blighty, overwhelmingly wracked with guilt, to face the beak are remote...… Well, to be more precise, none existent if he’s in fact brown bread.

Anyhow, will I be hanging a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree if football’s homecoming bears fruit after Sunday’s game with the Azzurri?…… Well, as I’ve not got a yellow ribbon, or indeed an oak tree, even if I wanted to (which I don’t), I’m clearly bereft of raw materials to facilitate that homecoming tradition.

Where will I watch Sunday’s game?……. Well, as my mum’s full-time carer it’ll have to be within one of chez Strachan’s chambers bearing a TV. Whether the broadcast will be viewed on the larger television, in the lounge, will depend on whether Mrs S senior falls asleep. Her habitually cacophonous snoring significantly reducing my overall enjoyment at witnessing this piece of sporting history .

On Wednesday evening, Maggie’s snorting leading to me venturing upstairs to watch the 30 minutes of extra time in England v Denmark’s semi-final on my bedroom TV. Watching England play in the latter stages of a tournament stressful enough, without a disharmonious backing track in accompaniment.

I was three years old when England won the World Cup on a sunny London afternoon in July 1966. It’ll not surprise you that at such a tender age, I hold no recollections about that day when Alf Ramsay’s boys wrote their names in English sporting legend.

Consequently, my route from 66 as an England fan’s been a final-less road, trodden with disappointment, discontentment and a few other words the start with ‘dis’ and end with ‘ment’. Among these irksome episodes the first World Cup I recall watching in 1970.

A tournament where England succumbed 3-2 to the West Germans on a sweltering Mexico evening, despite leading 2-0 with 23 minutes of normal time remaining. England undone by, among others, Bayern Munich’s Franz Beckenbaur and Gerd Muller.

The same two German coming back to also knock England out at the quarter-final stage of 1972’s Euros. Not to mention prevailing over my domestic club amours Leeds United 2-0 in the 1975 European Cup….. I truly hated Beckenbaur and Muller as a kid.

1970, though, was just the start of the misery supporting England would impart in this overly-sensitive chat. England not qualifying for the 1974 in West Germany, or 1978 in Argentina. We shaped up a bit after that, with regards qualifying for all subsequent World Cup (WC) tournaments (except 1994 in the US).

However, with the exception of two failed WC semi-finals, and a failed Euro 96 semi-final, any genuine hope of victory was played out as the thinnest of anticipatory gruel. Competitions laden with under-par performances, more penalty shoot out defeats than you could shake a stick at, and even being knocked out of one tournament by Sweden’s Tomas Brolin. The latter who (as irony would have it) later joined Leeds United where he proved to be an utterly woeful acquisition.

Footnote – When penning ‘more penalty shoot out defeats than you could shake a stick at’, I wasn’t meaning for it to be taken literally. I’ve never known any England footballers or fans shake sticks during these international spot kick skirmishes……. Although, who knows, by not doing so maybe that’s where we were going wrong!!

After over half a century of footballing despair which comes with being an England fan. Please, please, please Harry Kane and the lads; just bring that trophy home. Like a metaphorical paracetamol, taking the edge off the pain ingrained in the fans for 55 years, since Bobby Moore raised the Jules Rimet trophy aloft at Wembley.

A different trophy this time, the same stadium and another blonde haired Londoner captain. However, more than anything, I’d like to think we’re owed the celebration of tournament victory after so long.

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