I WANT England to win the World Cup.
I’m writing this the day after the penalty shoot-out win over Columbia and the point I want to make is that for the first time in my life I want England to win.
I want football to come home.
I’m not suddenly an England fan and I never will be. I’ll never be found singing Rule Britannia or God Save the Queen.
But it’s different now and the English winning? Yeh, why not?
Why can’t an Irishman want England to win the World Cup?
To win at the game they gave to the world.
I’m not sure what it is. It might be the fact that living in Ireland I’m surrounded by people who really want England to lose.
And come September the same people will be cheering on Man Utd and Liverpool, following English football avidly.
For any Irish person under the age of a hundred and who has lived their whole life in this Republic I can only ask, what is it exactly the English have ever done to you?
How can you love English football clubs, watch Coronation Street and Eastenders, be fascinated by the Royal Family but hate England’s football team.
Isn’t it time we all just grew up?
I grew up in an Irish family in England. It was a time of anti-Irish prejudice, of No Surrender to the IRA, of the Union Jack and the Cross of St George being synonymous with right wing fascists.
Supporting England was never an option for me. Not only that, I wanted them to lose.
Even two years ago I couldn’t quite suppress a laugh when they were beaten by Iceland.
Even more, I travelled from Birmingham in 1990 to watch Ireland at their first ever World Cup.
It was magical. I might have an English accent but I’m an Irishman and Ireland are my team.
But this time, for the first time, I want England to win it. It just all seems different now.
Gone are the bling, arrogant English with their air of superiority.
In their place is a humble, racially mixed team captained by a man whose family are from Galway. How could you not support them?
The idea of England has taken a Brexit battering of late but this might just be an England we can all take to.
Scrabbling around for a reason to still dislike them, an Irish sports website came up with the English press, as if that crude tabloid Englishness in some way impacted upon people here in Ireland or was in any way representative.
Essentially the Irish dislike of the English football team seems merely lazy.
It is always easy to take refuge in prejudice. It doesn’t demand a lot from your mind.
I grew up in the shadow of an inner city English football stadium.
I grew up inside the essence of English football culture, the rivalries and the identities, and the lifelong belonging. The English national team have never represented that for me.
I have no emotional attachment to them.
But watching ordinary English people celebrate, ordinary English football fans crying with joy over their team, I knew who they were.
I’ve got nothing against the Brazilians or the French or the Russians.
I’ve no dog in this fight.
Out of them all though it is English football I follow, an English football club I love, so why wouldn’t it be England I’d hope to win?
Maybe, even, like a lot of Irish people, even as we deny it, even as we’ve cheered on anyone but them, maybe that fascination with England and English things, hides an Irish truth.
Maybe the Irish all love England a little bit.
When they play this Saturday I’ll be cheering them on.
They’re a great footballing nation. It’s about time they won it again.
If they are then out, I’ve got a monkey off my back.
England will just be another team I can judge as we go along.
Still, come on. Admit it.
Wouldn’t it be great if football came home?