Simon Kelner: Everyone knows England won't win, so we just might

Kelner's view


At the end of this most English of celebrations, we now know what it feels to be French. The French calendar is stuffed full of bank holidays – among them, Ascension Day, Bastille Day and Assumption – and many of them, it seems to me, are rounded up into four-day breaks.

This makes it all the more impressive that their productivity levels are still higher than ours, but, at the end of this, the shortest working week of the year, I'd like to offer an optimistic thought that will particularly cheer those for whom getting one over on the French is, so to speak, a raison d'être.

I am not the world's most reliable pundit – a glance at my profit and loss account with the Tote will testify to this – but I'd like to make a bold prediction: England will do very well in the European Football Championships which start today. They may not take the trophy but I have a sneaking feeling that this most unfancied of squads will restore pride in our national team.

And their secret weapon? The Queen! The single most important factor in establishing the platform for success in Poland and Ukraine has been the lack of hype surrounding our footballers' chances. The truth is that we just haven't had the time, what with the Diamond Jubilee taking up all our reserves of hullabaloo and hoopla.

We can't be concentrating on Danny Welbeck when there's Sir Cliff Richard to worry about. And what's Gareth Barry's groin strain set against the Duke of Edinburgh's bladder?

Clearly, we can concentrate on only one thing at a time, and the Euros have crept up on us almost unnoticed. Quick! Take down the Union Flag and replace it with the Cross of St George! Oh, no point in bothering, we're not going to win it anyway. That's the spirit! Compared with the last two World Cups, when it was only a formality that this gilded generation of English footballers would return with the trophy, when they carried the burden of a nation's expectation on their shoulders and found themselves petrified as a result, it's much better we do it this way. No one expects us to do anything but fail.

A very good friend summed up the mood of a nation in an email yesterday in which he told me he's having major surgery next week. "Should just about be coming round from the anaesthetic," he wrote, "as England slide out... glad to be out of it." What better gift can we present Roy Hodgson and his men than a complete lack of faith?

England play the French on Monday and, as well as not being able to compete with their lack of productivity, we certainly can't match their class. But this is the year when, on the football field at least, reputation and pedigree have counted for nothing against a well-organised unit with a strong team ethic who are not expected to prevail.

This may be England's year. And you read it here first!

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