The Independent London Newspaper
23rd April 2019

SCORE BLIMEY: Time for the team to loosen up after that dismal draw

    Published: 14 October, 2016
    by RICHARD OSLEY

    STAY in school, kids, don’t smoke, don’t gamble, eat your greens, study hard, be nice to your mothers and stay away from the demon drink. There you go, a full disclaimer. For what I’m about to advocate for the England national football team in this column should not be seen as a prescription to down as many strawpedos as you can, or use vodka for milk on your morning cornflakes. 

    It’s just after the lightweight victory against Malta and then the dismal draw against Slovenia, a sort of undercooked dessert to the summer’s botched main course at the European Championships, it’s worth us thinking about when were we happiest watching England and how we could be happy again. 

    Where would we stop if we could quantum leap back to the best times? 1966 is too long ago, Italia ‘90 was fun, but the most recent stop we’d all likely make in the time machine would be Euro ‘96. It’s true we are destined to remember a summer now 20 years gone as sunnier than it was, maintaining we spent more nights in the pub singing Three Lions than we actually did, and recalling how England were better than they really were. Misty-eyed, we can recount how those balmy football nights of Euro ‘96 led to us somehow kissing a Swedish exchange student while dancing in the fountains of Trafalgar Square – as is meant to happen in the best summer of your teenage years – but that would be further embellishment too. 

    And yet, regardless of how the passage of time fogs the memory, and it’s now largely overlooked that in 1996 it seemed ok to like Ocean Colour Scene for example, it was without doubt a time when it wasn’t a chore to watch England. Terry Venables had made it fun. It even seemed acceptable to wear St George chainmail and face-paint if you wanted. Almost. 

    When the players of 1996, now pottering around life in golf gloves and uncle v-necks, talk about that tournament, the camaraderie seems to have survived. Many of their memories involve booze in hotel rooms, granted, but at least there was a team spirit which inspired the band of brothers who almost went all the way, and destroyed Holland on the best night of all. 

    So, hey, maybe a drop of loosening lager could help the current team; for these days the players are insulated by headphones bigger than their own heads, insistently listening to a new track by MC Rappy Chip Hop featuring Fitty Phox rather than speaking to the team-mate in the next seat. 

    They get off the coach with their ears still canned, all lost in their own worlds, wondering about who has the most Instagram followers and the most expensive whip. 

    Successive managers – and captains – have failed to engender any team spirit. Having the class square of ‘96, Gareth Southgate, is unlikely to help. They should all just go for a pint. 

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