Sadly, yesterday evening England’s dreams of becoming European football champions washed away like the roadside muck currently flowing down my street in prevailing rain water. At around 10.50pm, like the swift swipe of a conductor’s baton concludes an orchestral symphony, a defeat on penalties abruptly ending the nations hopes of victory
Although only the first occasion I’d seen my nation lose in a tournament final, my childhood was littered with disappointing final defeats for my club footballing amours Leeds United (LUFC). Irksome episodes such as losing the 1970 and 1973 FA Cup finals, defeat in the 1973 European Cup Winners Cup final, along with succumbing as runners-up in 1975’s European Cup final.
Events scarring me deeply enough to still recollect the gut wrenching feeling those setbacks impart. Long standing wounds inflicted between the ages of 7-12 which’ve stayed with me for over four decades.
Leeds United’s poor serendipity during that era leaving me to ponder that, if alleged slurs manager Don Revie was prone to bribe opposing clubs, he must’ve been the most inept extortionist in sporting history……. I mean, what sort of imbecile would fork out money to finish second?!…… Don’t you just love the lazy, biased, toxic untruths of the tabloid press.
If you add LUFC’s five second placed finishes in the top division during Revie’s reign to this brew of misfortune, I think it’s fair to say some of those childhood scars run pretty deep. Consequently, the feeling of misery experienced yesterday evening when England’s final penalty was saved by Italy’s 18ft tall goalkeeper Donnarumma, confirming England’s defeat, yours truly was whisked back 40+ years to the despair of childhood defeats.
Footnote – Quite clearly Donnarumma isn’t really 18ft in height….. He just chuffing looks it; the lanky streak of p!ss.
So seeing as time doesn’t heal a tortured soul born from witnessing your club or national side losing in a major final, in my experience anyhow, hopefully nobody will try and assuage me with hollow cliches such as time being a great healer…… No matter how well-meaning.
Perhaps, I should’ve made more of an effort to shake off the Leeds United disappointments I’ve dragged around on my coattails since childhood; likewise with yesterday’s England defeat. After all, nothing positive comes with it; if anything it’s made my existence tougher and exacerbated an identity crisis manifesting from being brought up 100 miles away my Leeds birthplace.
However, shaking that ‘what could’ve been’ feeling has always been a really tough ask…… Well for me anyhow. I take falling at the final hurdle very personally. What makes it’s worse is times Leeds United did win trophies/leagues my brio was always somewhat diminished by possessing notions I’d contributed in anyway, so why was I so elated….. I don’t even allow myself to enjoy winning scenarios!
Halfway through Euro 2020 I wrote a narrative stating, despite loving football for over half a century, I’d no real interest in football since arriving at middle-age. Yours truly going on to elaborate that my indifference meant I was barely following the tournament – Revealing this disconnection with the game born of its main protagonists greed.
However, the pain consequential of England’s defeat yesterday evening has proved to me my words were pure hogwash. The loss a catalyst to the same dagger in the heart as in my 1970’s childhood when Chelsea’s David Webb, Sunderland’s Ian Porterfield and Bayern Munich’s Gerd Muller consigned Leeds United to cup final misery….. Who you trying to kid, Strachan!