APPARENTLY the English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, and Irish football associations are planning a combined bid to host the World Cup in 2030.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Something to truly look forward to in a, hopefully, post-Covid world.
Of course the English will be the powerhouse of that bid.
They have the full range of football stadiums, reeked in football history, to add real strength to it.
They have the allure of the Premier League and the romance of footballing history.
Yes, whatever we might have felt about the tiresome repetition of that Football’s Coming Home song, we have to recognise the part England plays in the beautiful game’s history.
Whatever about the tiresome jingoism whenever England do well in football, we have to recognise that it is to English football we all look and English football teams that we all dream about.
Every Irishman who loves football loves an English football team, at a push Celtic, but, hey, that’s still Britain.
Indeed, my own geography of England was completely formed by the reading of the Saturday afternoon football scores and the long listings of the league tables.
And I say that as someone who was growing up there.
So it’s only logical that the biggest jewel in that combined bid is England.
There is, though, a very real problem with that when it comes to winning the vote.
It is a problem that might come as a surprise to some of you over there and it is one I offer you as someone who still has a regional English accent.
It is simply that a lot of people really don’t like the English.
Now when you have a truly articulate football manager like Gareth Southgate that seems very harsh. When you have young working class footballers who have offered social leadership and dignity it seems truly harsh. But it is, sadly, true.
Brexit, national anthem-booing fans, violence, Engurland, Boris Johnson.
Let’s be honest, the ingredients are there.
Indeed, looking on from the outside something that appears worth asking is, do the English like themselves?
Is there not a part of all that insecure patriotism, all that fist-swinging pride, that insistent flag waving that is mixed up with a sense of English self-loathing? Certainly the racist treatment of certain England players by England fans suggests a hatred of your own society.
Of course, people will justifiably point out that this a noisy, bothersome, minority and that might be so. But the England team were booed by their own fans in a warm up game when taking the knee.
They were, at least implicitly, not supported by the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary.
The fact that leadership was offered not by expensively educated government ministers but by working class lads good at playing football suggests England is, at the very least, a place troubled by itself.
So, it cannot be such a surprise that the English are not greatly liked beyond their own borders.
For all of the sporting infrastructure and history they contain the English are definitely the weak link in the World Cup bid.
Even the European Championship just gone saw not Welsh or Scottish fans let themselves down. Just the English ones.
We Irish might be a little bit too self-congratulatory about being so likeable, whether watching football or not, but it’s true.
The Irish are liked. The English aren’t.
Some of the reasons why, Brexit, Boris Johnson, England fans, is obvious. But some of it isn’t. Culturally, so many of us love English things.
Not just English football clubs, but English comedy, literature, television, music. England is a great idea.
But England in the flesh is different. Not without hope mind.
For those of us looking in from afar the England of Southgate and Saka is far more preferable, possible and hopeful than that of Priti and Piers, Johnson and Farage.
But that World Cup bid is not going to be enhanced by its most powerful component but hampered. England will both make the bid possible and act as a drag on it.
It will bring the glamorous stadiums and the footballing history.
It will certainly outshine Ireland in that department and probably Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland too.
It will not, though, engender any affection. It will not bring any votes through goodwill.
England, I’m sorry, I truly am, but no-one likes you.