In car parks and gardens and midsummer streets, in England polo shirts in half-time circles doing kick-ups with patriotic cigarettes draped in St George’s Crosses, we cared. We cared about the winning and being the loudest, the drunkest and the hardest; The Queen and Bobby Moore and Oasis and Loaded magazine. Oh to be young and English.
It might have been 2002, the last time I really felt it. The last time without cringing expectation; the final receding waves of seductive Italia 90 lapping vaguely still at our innocent shore.
As far as I can remember, since then, The First XI, those individual "brands" on their 360 degree TV profile pedestals, have done little but revolve slowly in the rays of The Sun, filtered gently through Mars bar wrappers that feed the tiny pets of their Wives And Girlfriends. They were just like me and you that Golden Generation weren’t they? The dead and dying English. The coin-eyed E of the E, E, EPL.
The new World Cup approaches: Lay back and luxuriate in the nostalgia being dripped from every black mirror into your ears and eyes, cajoling the soul once more into the breach, dear friends, once more. The battle between the still, dead English and those still Dead English.
Flashing romantic images of 1990 spark butterflies: bright-eyed Gary Lineker scoops the shit from his own shorts as he sits on the half way line vs. Ireland, before playing on manfully like City’s Bert Trautmann. Wayne Rooney would have a PR man for that now. Or at least a Nike bag.
There are places you can go that are still Dead England, places to stand and watch football accompanied by rousing music, while men and women scoop their own written wit from their shorts like Gary might.
In the boardroom of the Football Association today, old guardians of dead and dying England plan a cure for our latest moneyed-malaise by punishing the Dead English pyramid and making the next generation richer, younger. “We’re all in this together”, the billboards used to read. Signs of the times.
Meanwhile at the ballot box the dead and dying English are scared backwards that the children of Dan Petrescu are moving in next door. They want their country back, from the Dead English no doubt. No time for compassion it seems in UKIP’s dying English dreams.
During the World Cup there’s comfort to be had too though, in those determinedly Dead English who might knock-on and share a fearless half time bucket-hatted kick-up circle with their new neighbours, laugh and reminisce about their last minute hero and our Graeme Le Saux.
Oh Icarus, will we wonderful mongrel English still fly in the World Cup with Asda flags for wings while some still buy so near to the morals of The Sun? Nearer than any Dead English man would dare? Because despite what those frightened dead Englishmen might tell you, it’s still Dead English to care.