I CAN plot my life in England matches against Germany.
I was around for the World Cup Final of 1966, even though I was yet to be born.
I’ve worked out I was conceived during the tournament.
I’ve asked my mum and dad for some specifics regarding this event but, mercifully, none have been forthcoming.
The important point is that I know my mum watched it, so I was certainly in the room, or rather the womb, to be part of that triumph.
Yes, I was only a foetus, but these things matter.
So, I lived my toddler years with England as world champions — I thought those days would last for ever
I think I might have given the 3-2 defeat in the Mexico World Cup a miss, as I have no recollection of it.
You can’t blame me for that, I was only three after all.
And I must have got into a sulk then and given up on football because I don’t recall either of the two qualifying games for the 1972 Euros, a defeat and another goalless draw.
It was ten years until we played another competitive game against our old foes.
In that time, I’d started school, had my heart broken several times by West Brom and a succession of girls, and turned into a typically sullen teenager.
Just like England in the ’82 World Cup, I showed bits of promise in various areas but was generally found wanting.
England 0 West Germany 0 felt about right.
Before the next serious meeting, eight formative years later, I’d left school, worked as a scaffolder and gone on to earn a very mediocre degree in English at university.
The Gazza’s tears semi-final of Italia ’90 was truly a pivotal moment in my life.
Having just done final exams, my student days were now over.
Around 20 of my college friends came to my flat to watch the match and die a thousand deaths between us.
It wasn’t until the following morning that I realised I’d somehow channelled all my hopes and ambitions for the future into England’s performance at that World Cup.
I wandered around, dazed, wondering what on earth I was going to do with the rest of my life.
The only thing I knew for sure was that I’d surely never again feel this bad about an England v Germany match.
By Euro ’96, I had some success in my non-football life as I’d somehow carved out a career in broadcasting.
And in football, with Croatia coming into being as a footballing nation, I even had two teams to support.
Things were good
At least they were until the Germans had other ideas.
First, they despatched Croatia in the quarter-finals, and then, to my lasting horror, England, on penalties again, in the semis.
Four years later, the new millennium dawned.
Surely things would look up on the England-Germany front.
Well, up to a point.
At last, in the Euros of 2000, we beat them. But then lost in a qualifier at Wembley later in the year.
They couldn’t even let us have more than a few short months to savour our victory, could they?
And then, a year later, it came at last: A proper, scintillating win against them.
Thirty-five years since our last scintillating win, which I experienced only from inside my mother’s womb, I finally got another one.
Coming from behind to win 5-1, in Germany.
Now this was special.
I watched it with a big Scotland fan I know, in a hotel room in Glasgow, where I’d just covered Croatia’s 0-0 draw with Scotland at Hampden. “Aye,” he conceded grumpily. “Brilliant, I must admit.”
In that decade, my career went from strength to strength.
Nine years later, I was covering the World Cup in South Africa for ITV.
The 4-1 ball-over-the-line demolition at the hands of Germany was, mercifully, not our game.
The BBC covered it. I actually watched it with some of my colleagues in the ITV office in Johannesburg.
The chap I was sitting next to that day shook his head in horror at what unfolded.
That, I now recall, was none other than Gareth Southgate.
Please God I don’t get to see him in a similar state tonight.
I have every faith that we won’t.
I LOVE Wimbledon, but every year when it comes around I get a little bit more irritated by one thing – hearing journalists refer to the tournament by the post-code in which it is held?
Why do we do this?
I’ve done it myself this year already. SW19. Aaaarrgh.
Let’s just stop.
To even things up, I’d like to congratulate Harlequins on winning the Premiership Final in TW2 on Saturday and wish England all the best in HA9 this afternoon.
What a miss for me
THERE’S nothing so tedious as a parent boasting about their child’s achievements, but I simply have to share with you that my daughter has won her school’s history and politics prize
Naturally, I was most delighted when she told me, and very much looking forward to seeing her receive it at 6.30pm on Tuesday, June 29.
Hmm. Gradually, the awful truth started to dawn that this could clash with a football match.
Then, a week ago, it became clear it would be an England match and, the day after, it turned out the opponents would be Germany.
The ceremony has been timed with cruel precision to ensure I’ll miss the three critical phases of the match: The end of normal time, all of extra time and the penalties.
And please don’t tell me it won’t go to penalties – we all know it will.
Her school is only a few goal kicks away from Wembley, I may even hear the roars of joy or despair through the open windows.
I don’t think I’ll even be able to sneak looks at my mobile phone as, given social distancing, we’ll be so spread out.
I’ve tried everything to get out of this.
I’ve cited Covid worries, I’ve claimed I’m working, I’ve even tried saying I’d find it much more meaningful to be watching on Zoom and then I’d be able to record the moment for posterity
“Tough s**t,” said my daughter (pardon her language). “You’re coming.”
Quite right, too.
Can’t help falling in Love with bad telly
THE return of Love Island reminds me that one of the advantages of having teenage children is that you can keep across elements of popular culture without having to directly engage in it yourself.
There are countless TV shows I’ve been able to bluff away talking and writing about, even though I’ve never sat down to watch them.
The list is long.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians; Pretty Little Liars; Made In Chelsea; Grey’s Anatomy; Selling Sunset; and, not least, Love Island.
All of these have been on in the background of my life for several years now.
I’m sure there are some characters who have popped up in all of the above shows, so similar-looking are the types you get on them.
As you can imagine, I’ve got on my kids’ nerves no end with all my hilarious droll comments as to how bad these shows are, but the truth is I’ve grown quite attached to them.
I’ll miss them when I haven’t got an excuse to half-watch them any more.
I spy? Not a hope
EVERY time a comedy cock-up regarding national security reaches the headlines, a shiver goes down my spine.
Many years ago, having failed my civil service entrance exam, I was called to an interview regarding other, unspecified, work in the Ministry of Defence.
To cut a long story short, this turned out to be an interview for MI5.
At least, that’s what the woman told me at the end of this three-hour interview and a steely look in her eye told me she wasn’t mucking about.
I’m happy to report that the intelligence services’ recruitment procedures turned out to be sound, as I got a rejection letter a couple of weeks later.
I would have made a terrible spy, like Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English character.
And leaving a pile of classified documents about military matters at a bus stop is precisely the kind of blitheringly careless calamity I would have done.
Britain has been a safer place without my services.
Kissing kiss off
I MAKE no comment on the Matt Hancock affair other than this: While he undoubtedly looks a bit of a plum in the photos, I wonder if it’s ever possible for us to look anything other than plums when we’re snogging.
I certainly wouldn’t care to catch sight of myself doing it.
Then again, I’ve always had a problem watching anyone kissing.
Whenever it comes on the telly, I have to cover my eyes.
No, for me, snogging, like life itself, is not a spectator sport.
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