Here kicks off sport review NZ’s Germany 06 coverage. I’m going to be providing some New Zealand perspective on the world’s biggest sporting event. Mostly from the couch. After some (pretty minor) soul searching, I will hereby be backing England in this World Cup. Here’s why.
I started off supporting England when I began taking a proper interest in Spurs in 1993 or thereabouts. It went hand in hand for me – I knew the players, the All Whites were pretty crap, so why not? It just felt right. I got a copy of the Italia ’90 semi final on VHS and watched it a lot.
It really kicked off with Euro 96 – Terry Venables had the coaching job, and put Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton and Nick Barmby in the team. Gazza was back, Wembley was bathed in sunshine, they had grey shirts, I had a Sky decoder – what could possibly go wrong?
“You look like you’re going to vomit” said my then-girlfriend when Southgate missed his penalty. Some welcome.
Then came France ’98. By now I was living in London, and had seen England lose to Chile at the old Wembley stadium with my brother and a couple of mates, a game notable only for the England debut of M. Owen. I warmed up with the rest of the boys from the office at a Southwalk pub, laughing at Scotland losing to Brazil. “This is brilliant” I thought – World Cup football in the same timezone! And booze!
England had three pool games to negociate, but no-one seemed too worried, all eyes were on the Argentina match. I watched from the floor of a Wapping pub in front of a big screen. It’s safe to say that by kick off, I’d had a few, my office went to a wine bar for someone’s birthday, so we could all get pissed beforehand, they were bloody considerate those guys. I remember Owen’s goal alright, and I remember leaping to my feet to celebrate (pre-Judas) Sol Campbell’s goal, only to be ruled out by Alan ‘bloody’ Shearer’s thoughtless elbow on an Argie defender. I remember using some very bad language on my stagger to the tube station afterward, and can only apologise to anyone Argentinean who may have heard it.
Then God Hoddle shot his mouth off and England got Keegan. I loved his Newcastle side like everyone else, but always thought he was a bit of a Muppet. By Euro 2000 I was living in Dublin and took my life in my hands cheering Shearer’s goal vs Germany in a Leopardstown pub – that didn’t go down to well with the locals (“It’s OK, we’re Kiwis” “Ye’re feckin eeejits”). England were a bit shit, of course, and this was the beginning of the end, Keegan was apparently great at ‘geeing the lads up’, but was utterly, cruelly clueless tactically.
I packed it in when they lost to Germany at Wembley’s last match in the worst performance and Keegan resigned immediately afterwards. “I don’t need this shit” I thought. “I’ve got enough bloody teams to worry about without these guys”. I watched Beckham beat Greece on his own impassively. I laughed at Seaman’s ponytail and Sven’s inability to keep it in his trousers. I tried backing Italy (The Sopranos) and Brazil (Ronaldo) in Japan/Sth Korea 02, but didn’t get tooooo worked up. Everyone loves Brazil deep down anyway. I watched Rooney go off injured and England going out of Euro 04 and felt a twinge of… something.
Now I’m back, chastened. The time is right, England can play some nice football. There’s loads of Spurs players in the team and squad. They’ve got a great chance of winning it, and they’ll have me yelling for them. I only hope they’ve been practicing penalties.