Cruel, agonising and magnificent - Sport - The Independent

Cruel, agonising and magnificent

Couch potato Keith Elliott suffers, but not in silence

The doctor has a tough job on his hands this morning. It's not the minor injuries he's got to sort out: it's the lack of a will to live. I can handle the bruises, the cuts, and all the other pains, but not the ache I felt, along with thousands of fans, after England cruelly went out of the European Championship on penalty kicks yesterday evening.

My wife, bribed by the promise of a new dress and a night out this weekend, was appalled when she came in at 10.15pm last night and found me sprawled on the floor looking as if I had been fighting with Rottweilers.

It looked like one of those lateral-thinking puzzles (...there were signs of a struggle, but the doors were locked and the telephone off the hook. The only possible weapons were several bottles, but these were unbroken. The man, however, was soaking wet, covered in bruises, with a dried cut on his head. A wrecked TV remote was by his side. What had caused it?).

The answer, of course, was the football. Not that half-hearted knockabout between the French and the Czechs, but the full-blooded monty at Wembley. One of the great games in the football history, if my appearance is anything to judge by.

It all started so well. But two minutes into the match, I incurred the first injury, a damaged ankle caused when Alan Shearer put home that wonderful header. Leaping in the air, I smashed my foot against a stool. It's still swelled up like an orange.

The bruised eye (bit embarrassing, this) came after the 15th-minute goal by Stefan Kuntz (did you notice how Desmond Lynam pronounced his name to rhyme with balloons?) when I threw my hands up in dismay and whacked myself. I also bruised my head on the back of the chair.

Maybe I wasn't actually at Wembley, but I reckon I shouted as loud as anyone. My voice went sometime around the 60th minute, when England were clearly on top and I was convinced they were going to score. My nails were already chewed down and, by the second half, I was well into the skin.

I started worrying about heart palpitations in the first period of extra time, especially when Gascoigne came so near to scoring. Like most of the crowd, I was pouring with sweat from the tension. That oh-so-close slide finished off the TV remote, because I knocked it on to the floor.

My hands were already bruised from beating the armchair in frustration as England came several times within a whisker of winning, and two wild kicks, to egg the lads on, didn't do much for my toes with only slippers on. But I didn't notice, and thought: "Ridiculous!" when Trevor Brooking said: "The doctors' surgeries will be full tomorrow morning..."

Penalties... so unfair when we were clearly the better side. But Seaman would save us, wouldn't he? One, two, three, four, five goals each, and poor Southgate's tame kick was grabbed by the German keeper like a baby falling from a fourth-floor window. Screaming, "Oh, no!" I leaped up. That's when I cracked my head on the standard lamp.

I missed the winning German penalty because I was holding my head. It bled a bit, but not as much as English hearts at Wembley must have done, seeing those sad faces trooping off the pitch.

It might not be the end of the world, but it feels like it.

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