When I wake up in the night, for about five minutes I just lie there, trying to work out where I am, which house I am in, where is the lavatory, who am I, what am I. Leaving chalk marks on the floor, that often helps to locate the lavvie; but for some time I am still dozy and dopey.
For two nights after England’s exit, I woke up dead wide awake, all senses alert – and with one thought in my tiny mind: ENGLAND IS OUT. I suppose it must have been lurking there, in my semi-conscious sleeping mind, and crashed right to the fore once I opened my eyes. I then groaned loudly, and tried but failed to turn over and go back to sleep. Pathetic, or what.
Yet I always tell myself it is football that I follow, which matters most, rather than individual teams such as Spurs, Carlisle United or England, so in theory I can just relax, lie back and enjoy. But it is hard, so dreadfully hard. I feel let down, furious, when England do so badly.
There’s pleasure in seeing Uruguay do well, a country with a population of only three million, or in cheering on the likes of Chile and Costa Rica, most of whose players I’d never heard of before this World Cup, who tried so hard, were so brave and committed, who have played above themselves.
England played below themselves. Where they should be is of course not very high, and not one of their players would get picked for any of the Top Ten teams – but they failed even to be mediocre. Much smaller, so-called less favoured nations are doing better, exceeding themselves, and are exciting to watch. Unlike England.
Why was that? Not good enough, is the obvious answer, but many believe it is because Our Lads are spoiled. Lauded and lavishly rewarded in the Premiership, egos flattered, lives pampered, they feel entitled – as many do in this modern age.
Inside their heads, they gave us their best, are furious at the suggestion they did not try – but, watching them, it was clear they could not raise their game. And they got found out for the lumps they are. So sad.
Look, will you just get over it, said my wife. I expect a small boy to react like you, taking it so personally, but not someone of your age, especially not one who has just got this OBE thing, so grow up.
Yes, that was a surprise, but it didn’t make up for England’s defeat. You aren’t going to accept it? she said. I said: certainly, I should get at least 1,000 words out of it. “Services to Literature”, so it said, which made them all laugh in our house. Wasn’t ghosting Rooney’s autobiography a work of high art? And Gazza’s book was highly literate, if not literary, thanks to Gazza personally correcting my spelling and punctuation. Next stop, Nobel Prize, oh yes.
Jimmy in the tartan tammy
Back to Ingerland. Obviously next time they should not have to scrape along with only 72 back-up staff in the FA’s entourage. This time they included a turf specialist, cook, psychiatrist, nutritionist, dieticians and video geeks, plus coaches, physios and blazers. I hope next time they won’t penny-pinch and will let each of the 23 players have his own hair stylist, financial adviser and brand manager. It’s only fair.
And of course give up all training or playing for five weeks before their first game, perhaps even have some major surgery, spend some time in a wheelchair, as did Luis Suárez.
And ignore all hot weather acclimatisation. In their second game, where they played even worse than in their first, they were in São Paulo, where it’s temperate, and still they could hardly work up a sweat or knock themselves out, like Algeria or Korea.
Ah well, it’s given a lot of fun to a lot of fans around the world, seeing England fall flat on its smug face. No wonder that lone Scottish fan, in his tartan tammy and waving a saltire as England went down, was such a global hit on the internet. The whole world got the joke.
It also means that when Costa Rica play England in their final, pointless group game on Tuesday – the result of which yous will all know by now – they will be able to field their B team, amateur players from their Conference League, perhaps even their girlfriends and grannies. And probably still stuff us. If, of course, Our Lads manage a scoreless draw, I’ll be dancing in the fields.