Hunter Davies: Twenty-two blokes, one ball. It's all a nonsense

Hurrah. Ordinary life will return, thank God. But who wants ordinary life?
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I'm glad it's all over, no I'm not, what a stupid thing to say, thank God England got stuffed, about time, good riddance, putting us through all that. Oh no, what am I going to do now? I've watched 52 live games, some of them from behind the sofa. Three weeks of my life have revolved around it, a whole routine with its own rules and rhythms, eating and sleeping football, all will now be emptiness and pointless. Hurrah, ordinary life will return, thank God for that. But who wants ordinary life? Bugger ordinary life; ordinary life will be a big vacuum, sans football, sans England, that shit team, what have they done, trampling all over my emotions. That's football, eh. Loving and hating it, all at the same time. Now, it's over, England-wise, I still can't get my feelings in order. I think I'm in shock, doctor, combined with fury, topped by confusion.

Just a few days ago I was thinking, hey, they're amusing, those WAGs - the Wives and Girlfriends. Don't knock them, they're a bit of light entertainment. Why shouldn't they go around drinking £1,000 bottles of champagne, buying £10,000 bags, dancing on tables, singing songs, good luck to them, they're just lasses who happen to have millionaires for boyfriends. Now, post England's exit, I think how tawdry, how cheap, acting like that when all along their lads were rubbish, giving us nothing at all to celebrate.

Those flags, I found them amusing as well. I even wore an England wrist band, just to be up with our vicar here in the Lake District. She's been driving around with two flags on her car. When I visited her on Saturday morning, she appeared at the vicarage door in an England T-shirt. Not post-ironic, not being a trendy vicar, just an ordinary football fan who got caught up in the nation's euphoria.

Most people of a middle-class persuasion were suspicious of the flags at first, associating them with white-van drivers and BNP members. That feeling faded as they became part of the landscape, harmless fun, people identifying with the community, and our lads. Will that now all go? Will we go back to feelings of suspicion when we spot an England flag? I tore off my wrist band, the moment that final England penalty didn't go in.

I know I was brainwashed. By me, myself. No wonder I'm still confused. I should have known better, having agonised for 40 years whenever England played in any tournament. I believed, because I wanted to believe, that we had the best crop of players for several decades. This time, we'd show them, whatever it was, we thought we were going to show them.

I believed Sven when he said the best was to come. I forgave them being stuffed by Northern Ireland, which should have been a warning. I believed he knew what he was doing, that he must have a plan, when the evidence before my eyes said the opposite.

I simply can't credit it now that they managed five whole World Cup matches, one after the other, playing rubbish football, lumpen and clumsy and nervous, without being ejected or opening our eyes. Yet after each one I went along with the mouthing - they'll be better next time, you wait, we'll see the real England, best crop of players, blah blah.

So what else have we told ourselves we believe? That this is the best country in the world? We're the most tolerant, hard-working, the best sense of humour, fair, honourable. That's what most Brits like to believe, but the thousands who traipsed to Germany have been amazed and delighted by the Germans - so kind, civilised, their hotels and transport so clean and efficient and cheap, compared with dirty, expensive old London. What else have we taken for granted, what other values should we now be questioning ?

We've also turned out bad losers, turning on Sven, and Wayne, that poseur Beckham, that half-German Hargreaves, no hold on, he's a hero. That was last week, when Hargreaves was a useless, waste of space.

By following football, you contradict yourself all the time, for and against, in and out, up and down, you owe me half a crown. It's all a nonsense. Twenty two blokes, one ball.

The most pathetic part is me. How could I have taken it so seriously, allowed it to dominate my life? A grown man, who has so much - a loving wife and family, his own teeth, how can he possibly be faffing on about something so futile as football?

I must get a grip. That's it. I'll get things in proportion. Let's see, tomorrow and Wednesday, the semis, then the final on Sunday, have to watch them, having invested so much time. Now, where's my diary, that's it, August 5, I'll drive into Carlisle to watch United, oh come on, can't miss it, first game in League One. God, I can't wait, so much to look forward to ...

Hunter Davies' memoirs, The Beatles, Football and Me, is published by Headline next month