England, my England

The Euros, according to BILLY'S CONTRACT

Was it just me or was there very little interest, if any at all, in the Euros (and I am not talking about the referendum or exchange rates here), or the England football team itself?

In previous build ups to World Cups and Euro tournaments you would see hundreds of fans walking around the streets wearing their England tops but I saw very few. Even at the pre-tournament friendly against Australia at the Stadium of Light many of the home supporters were wearing an assortment of differing England shirts, many from bygone years. Or had the 70,000 pennies finally dropped and the fans finally come to their senses about getting ripped off by the FA, with England bringing out a new shirt on an almost monthly basis at £70 a punt? For the record I went to this game in a Pools top.

Even the build up for the Euros was very low key. Very few England flags draped from bedroom windows or flying from cars and white vans. Apart from the few odd T shirts in Asda and Sainsburys I did not see one souvenir cup/mug flask or car sticker on sale. On the day I even forgot the Euros had kicked off. It was only by chance when channel hopping on the remote I just managed to catch Dimitri Payet's wonder goal against ...whoever it was that they were playing at the time.

Apart from the violence between the England, French and Russian fans, very few people in the street were talking about the actual tournament or the matches, and certainly in my case my mates and I were more interested in whether Pools had signed anyone or if Rakish Bingham was staying with the club.

Interest did momentarily crank up a notch when England played Wales, as it was billed as a derby match rather than an international. with everyone this side of the Brecon Beacons believing that England would wipe the floor with the Boyos. As we all know the best side lost on the day and on the strength of that victory some optimists were even predicting that England could go all the way ...mainly because all the other teams in the tournament were c--p, and logic dictated that the least c--p team, possibly England, could win it.

We all know what happened next when a rudderless, woeful England were knocked out by Iceland. The only people who seemed to be shocked and stunned by this result were Ian Wright, Gary Lineker and possibly Roy Hodgson. Very few people I spoke to seemed surprised or even angry by the defeat - it was almost as if it was a foregone conclusion,  particularly when you look at England's track record against Nordic nations - it was probably expected.

Contrast this outcome to the World Cup in Mexico 1970 when a very good England team were beaten by a very good West German side after extra time (no penalties required). The following day I went into college. Half the lads in our year did not bother to turn up for lessons and those that did were so distraught that they did not speak to each other for nearly three days after the event, such was the impact of the result and the passion we then held for the national side.

 This time around, instead of national mourning, many England supporters, and I include myself in this, moved on, and latched on to the the Wales/Iceland bandwagon ...only to be further disappointed. At least the Welsh lads did not go home with their heads hung in shame. I could not make my mind up who to root for in the final as I'm not a big fan of the French. The Napoleonic wars are still fresh in the memory and landing a spy disguised up as a monkey on the Headland was to mind very underhand (and the French cite the English as being perfidious!)
"Those grey track suit bottoms were something else. They did not even look clean."

Nowadays our Gallic neighbours manufacture unreliable cars (Diesel engine excluded) but I suppose that keeps the breakdown services in business. On the plus side they had Dimitri Payet playing for them and I enjoy watching him. As for Portugal, historical long-term ally of England. Nice country (Lisbon is well worth a visit). On the downside their football team only won one match in normal time to get to the final.

The other downer, for me was that they had Ronaldo, and I have got to say I am not as big as fan of him as he is of himself. He gives the impression 'It's all about me.' (When I say me I mean him.) Prior to kick off I actually said I thought it would be amusing if Ronaldo got himself sent off in the first ten minutes. Okay he did not get sent off but he did go off injured (not that I wanted to see that happen) but once he left the field of play I was well up for Portugal, and to their credit they played better without him and well deserved their win.

Overall it was a poor tournament on so many levels. No one player stood out for me. Bale, Payet, Ronaldo and Griezmann all played well and had their moments but fizzled out when the going got tough. My favourite player of the tournament was the forty year old 'Flapper' Cox look-alike Hungarian goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly. Those grey track suit bottoms were something else. They did not even look clean. He looked like a right Chav. someone you would see pushing a pram round the town on a Tuesday afternoon with his girlfriend two paces behind eating a Greggs pasty. I'm only guessing that the contents of the pockets of Gabor's 'tracky bottom' contained two tins of Stella and half a packet of 'rolley baccy'. He did not look the 'trimmest ' goalkeeper in the world and as someone once commented about Sarah Ferguson's derriere (Viz Magazine to be precise) and I quote: 'Let's face it, a fat arse is a fat arse.' and boy did he have one ...and a half. Having said that, he still performed better than the England goalkeeper.

For the record. Joe Hart's stats were six direct shots on his goal, four conceded. He certainly is not 'Head and Shoulders' better than Jack Butland !(back to rear ends again!) It's easy to be wise after the event but having seen the Australia friendly I was not filled with hope for the Euros. Wilshere was huffing and puffing and clearly not match fit after only playing 3 full games for Arsenal all season. Then there was the selection of Lallana who has yet to score for the national side and seems to get subbed on a regular basis. There was no point at all bringing Jordan Henderson and James Milner, and as for Raheem Sterling, he could not beat a carpet let alone his man. With apologies to David Beckham he has got to be the most overrated footballer of all time.

Alan Shearer was not wrong when he said that Roy Hodgson should not have shown loyalty to the old guard and should have picked players who were both fit and in form. Based on that premise, to my mind, the likes of Andros Townsend, Danny Drinkwater, Mark Noble and dare I even say it, don't laugh - Andy Carroll should have been on the plane to France. Provided England had players who could 'put a cross in the box',  Carroll would possibly have given England a different option, particularly coming on as a late sub when England were chasing the game against Russia and ...er Wales and mmmm Iceland.  Anyway we will never know.

Anyone looking forward to The World cup in Russia comrade?