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Opinion

World Cup fever hits Newcastle fans…

9 months ago
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The greatest football competition on the planet, the World Cup finals kicking off this Thursday.

Are you excited?

Are you taking the afternoon off to watch Russia v Saudi, or Morocco v  Iran.

If you are one of those who has the flags on the cars or hanging from the bedroom window, good on you, but for me the event is leaving me cold.

It wasn’t always like that.

As a kid the World Cup was magical.

Back in 1970, I would constantly be badgering my dad to go and put some petrol in the car, in order that I would get another England squad commemorative coin for the collection, and hope that this time it would be Bobby Charlton.

Even in 1974, when England didn’t qualify, the World Cup was still a massive event, with everyone I knew getting behind Scotland.  Maybe it was different in your area, but I don’t remember any anti-Scotland bias from any of my schoolmates, or on the telly from the likes of Clough and Allison.

My only disappointment was that Jinky Jim Smith didn’t make the squad, with some ginger headed Jinky Jim from Celtic being chosen instead.  By all accounts he was pretty good.

At that time we were a United Kingdom.  How things were to change.

By the time the 1990 World Cup in Italy came around, I was serving in Northern Ireland.

On the night of the Germany game it seemed that every Welsh, Irish, or Scottish lad in the mess had bought a German top. The bar had to be segregated, with them on one side and the English lads on the other.

Quite unbelievable that a band of brothers who the day before, and the day after, depended on each other to stay alive, were prepared to throw punches at each other, over the inability of Chris Waddle to keep the bloody ball in the stadium

But as successive competitions have come and gone, that mad passion has slowly disappeared, with the 2014 event hardly registering.  That may have been down to the fact that England were totally rubbish but it went deeper than that.

I can honestly say that I didn’t watch one of the 10 England qualifiers or any of the warm up matches this time,  I have come to the conclusion that it’s down to not feeling like England is “my team”.

My job takes me around the towns and recently I have found that lads in Carlisle,  Ramsbottom and Goole are feeling the same way.  Obviously that’s a generalisation, because there will be plenty “Ramsbottom” flags on show in Russia in the coming weeks,  but the love affair for the national team seems to be diminishing

Maybe that is not such a surprise, as it simply reflects our dissatisfaction with the club game. However, whereas my relationship with Newcastle  could be described as “estranged but under counselling”, my relationship with England had reached the “Decree Nisi” stage.

I may be opening myself up to getting dogs abuse in the comments but I personally think Newcastle is Geographically, Politically and Culturally closer to Glasgow and Edinburgh  than it is to London.

The Wembley stadium debacle , where it had to be built in London and not in the centre of the country it’s meant to represent, summed up the contempt the leaders had  for the people of the North.  If by some miracle England won the World Cup, where would the ticker tape parade take place?  You certainly won’t see them coming down Grey Street.

Back in 1990 the team had  a massive Geordie influence, Beardsley, Gascoigne, Waddle  , Robson (and Andy Sinton in the squad), which made it easier to get emotionally involved, but these days I don’t think there is anyone in the squad born north of Leeds (give or take a couple of mackems), so as the next month passes by, I will dip in and out of the games.

I will still be hoping England progress and play decent football, but I won’t be losing any sleep over an extra-time defeat to Germany in the quarter-finals, because I’m afraid  England is no longer “my team.”

Send me to the tower.
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