My relationship with football started at secondary school, just before Euro ’96. I have a club side that I’m fanatical about but I’m at my most tragically passionate when it comes to England. I’ve always regretted the fact that I wasn’t old enough or savvy enough at the time to get tickets to a major tournament in my own country but I have very vivid memories of watching Euro ’96 on telly. We were truly magnificent in that tournament. I’ve come to realise that more and more since then.
I find it really hard not to talk about football without quoting Churchill or using the lexis of battle, religion or theatre, sometimes in the same sentence. It’s ridiculous and very clichéd I know but that’s the sort of melodramatic emotion football has always stirred up in me. That iconic image of a bloodied Terry Butcher is the spirit in which I think any one selected to play for England should play in – even if it’s a friendly against Andorra. You can imagine, then, just how disappointed I’ve been since Euro ’96. Seriously, in which other of life’s arenas would you continue to put up with such anger and frustration?
Over the years, I’ve given most of my support from the confines of an armchair, shouting loud enough that I can be heard – but when they decided to knock down the old Wembley Stadium, I knew that I had to go. My first visit was only an under 18’s game but I saw what it would be like to be in the midst of thousands of people that care as much as I do. And we deserve to have our loyalty repaid, our honour restored. There was a time when Wembley was universally feared and respected, and throughout Euro ’96 it was a fortress.
I know it can be again