I haven’t written a lot about Euro 2020, not on this site, at least.
In my day job, I’ve written numerous articles about injured players that haven’t made it and about Ukraine being one of the tournament’s dark horses. I’ve collected the Panini stickers and generally enjoyed the tournament almost as a neutral. Of course, I’m English and a football fan, so by the time the first game rolled around, I was heavily invested in everything. However, I’m not one of those content creators that can flit between England and Lincoln – I do a site about the Imps, not general football. The last England game I watched before we played Croatia was Croatia in the World Cup semi-final. I haven’t watched 90 minutes of a Premier League game in at least five years, if not more, so I’m not all that well placed to start debating selection, tactics etc. If I don’t have anything constructive to add to a conversation, I stay silent (that’s something I wish a few Lincoln fans would do from time to time).
I have got myself invested in this tournament though, heavily, and by the time we took to the Wembley turf last night, I could feel the passion building in me. I stuck a projector up in the bar, played Three Lions and World in Motion on repeat for 30 minutes and cracked open the homebrew. It usually gets me like this; I’ll try to be a bit blase about the group stages, then by the time the knockouts arrive, I’m fully on board. In 2014, I got into it early, and we went out early. In 2012, I couldn’t tell you who we played in the group stages (Sweden and Ukraine maybe?), but I had my face painted up by the time Italy knocked us out.
I did have to smile at the final whistle last night though. Our Player of the Year had left the club, signing for a club that some consider a local rival, and yet the social media meltdown only lasted as long as it took the first half to complete. Some of the moans went from Grant to Peterborough to Kane and England within an hour, refreshing to a degree. This morning, when there should be an outpouring of unfounded worry about us not having a squad for the new season, I’m reading all about how we have won the Euros with a last 16 win. Imagine that, Scotland won it 0-0 at Wembley and now we’ve won it with seven other teams left in the pot. I know they said the new format was crazy, but this crazy? I’m impressed.
Victory over Germany does take away a little of the pressure on the club to (and I quote) “dO a sIGniNg”, or whatever else it is people usually moan about. It hasn’t stopped my friend Nick texting trying to glean information from me I don’t actually know, but it has shifted people’s focus away from the club and onto England. I’m sure Michael, Jez and the team feel no pressure at all to speed things up for John the warehouse operative who thinks we won’t start the season with a keeper at this rate. Still, it does mean Charlie and Tom in the media suite don’t keep getting notification from said John expressing his views in his own illiterate and poorly-spelt way. For one day (at least), the club are off the hook. Phew.
I must confess, the reaction to the Germany win has surprised me. Sure, after the game and with a few drinks in me, I did tweet about ‘it coming home’, as you do when you’re a bit worse for wear. Still, this morning I haven’t been trawling the internet for that image of a poor child crying, not expressing my underlying xenophobia by proclaiming ‘that’s for Brexit’, which we initiated anyway. Instead, I watched Ukraine and Sweden, then got up this morning as if it were another Wednesday much like the rest, not the best Wednesday since 1966, which the press will tell you it is.
Hell, it’s got so bad that the main headlines on the BBC news page are how we now face Ukraine in the quarter-finals of a major competition, a stage we have been at nine times now since I first started following football in 1986. It’s not exactly groundbreaking. Yes, we beat the Germans, but it wasn’t the German side of old, organised, ruthless and efficient. Nothing is won yet and yet the media are behaving as if it is. We only have to beat Ukraine (dark horses, remember) and either the Czech Republic or Denmark to reach the final! Woop, it’s in the bag, right? Maybe, maybe not, but those three teams are all in this stage because they’ve won games against good sides, so we might have the best chance since 1966 to get to the final of a major competition, but that’s all it is, a chance. It’s like celebrating buying a lottery ticket if the organisers gave you one number for free – you have a head start, but there’s a long way to go before we should celebrate.
I’m also a bit let down about that underlying xenophobia we keep seeing. I’m all for celebrating a win against a rival, if we beat Grimsby or Scunthorpe I love it and celebrate with gusto, but crying children would be off the table when it came to ‘banter’. I won’t go deep into politics either, but why do some sections of support boo taking the knee, then sing about ten German bombers and talk about Brexit? Are we keeping politics out of football, or not? I could say it confuses me, but that would be artistic license because it doesn’t confuse me at all. I don’t boo taking the knee, I don’t sing ten German bombers and last night’s result had nothing to do with Brexit. I saw a post saying ‘why do they take all the fun out of football, not being allowed to sing about bombers’ – jeez, I don’t know, because you’re essentially glorifying death and misery? Maybe that’s why. Don’t think Captain Sir Tom Moore, or any other proud veteran who witnessed the horror of war firsthand would applaud you for singing your songs whilst wearing Union Jack shorts and throwing beer in the air, they wouldn’t. Celebrate the win, sure, but not by making our country look like a bunch of bloodthirsty, cowardly xenophobes with no concept of good taste or decency. Please.
Anyway, it was a good win yesterday, no more important right now than beating Colombia in 2016 or Ecuador in 2006. It could be: if we do reach the final then it is a huge win, one we should cherish, but if not it means very little. I’m not being a party-pooper either, I’m trying to piss on everyone’s chips, but many fans enjoying today as if it were the final were the same ones laughing at Scotland for doing the same when they beat us 0-0. I’m a confessed hypocrite at times, but even I’m not that bad.
Anyway, back to the Imps Twitter feed. Let’s hope we do a signing today, given that the season starts in six week and it is imperative we get someone in today otherwise we’ll be relegated.