Wednesday 21st June 2006

This may surprise you but I tend to prefer to watch football in two places. In the comfort of my own sofa, at home. Or at the ground (Highbury and soon Ashburton Grove). I have only ever watched one game in pub group environment. (While you recover from the shock, let me explain). It was the England Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in October 2003. Looking back I started reading my archives as I often do and amaze myself how quickly the memories start flooding back, often putting a smile on my face. Back then, it was my final year at University and after a group of us wondered around the city centre to find a bar, we headed back to the SU bar and ended up watching there on the big screen. I decided not to go to Canary Wharf on Saturday for the first group game, even though I had until early on Saturday morning been quite open to persuasion. Dave persuaded me to come down to Litten Tree in the centre of High Wycombe. He messaged me while at work and explained he would be down there from around 7pm and to get there early for a good seat. I told him that as I finished work at 6pm by the time I got ready and had some dinner it would be nearer 7.30pm. It would be free to get in, I was assured. My Dad got in just as I was having my dinner and said he would go down with me. We headed off just before 7.30pm and parked in the Sainsbury car park in Dovecot Street, directly opposite the pub. Walking up, we could see already it was quite busy and a small queue outside. It was student night, Bar 150, all mainline drinks £1.50, and you could tell the crowd was generally quite young. We paid £2 each to get in, which was bit of a joke, but I know of other pubs charging over £5 for tickets which had to be booked in advance. Heading to the bar, I felt the patriotic atmosphere straight away, with classic England songs being sung by drunken men at the back with the loud and deep voices. I text Dave, it was drawing closer to kick-off with a few minutes to go. Then, I looked around to the left of the bar and there he was, queuing for his beverages. He placed his order, got me to hand over the cash, while he went to hand the drinks over to his friends. I then went over to meet and greet them, some whom I knew from before. So we took our places, viewing positions for the match. We were watching one of the plasma screens at the back, but standing right by the staff bar door so constantly had to get out of the way for the bar staff as they came to collect glasses. Never mind, minor interruption. Come on England! As you know I have regrets by the bucket load, but sometimes you just have to turn opportunities down and go with what you feel is right. My company was holding an exclusive football night at the Hilton in London for clients to enjoy a champagne reception, the game and guest speaker at half time, in the form of Harry Redknapp. At the last minute, due to cancellations, my manager offered two tickets to us in our team meeting. I thought about it for a few minutes but turned it down, as did Chris. We had to be there for 6pm and it would have been a made rush to make plans. Plus and perhaps more importantly I would not be able to wear my England shirt or actually get into mood, with the company and surroundings taken into account. At least down my local pub I could (to a certain extent) be myself. Do I regret turning down this great opportunity. No, not at all. Football is about passion in a relaxed joyful atmosphere. Something you cannot just bottle up and hope works at an exclusive hotel, with all the benefits of a lavish expense account. So much has been said about the England game already. The injury to Owen. Sol Campbell making a hash of things at the back. Beckham going missing (again?) and Sven still not bringing on the boy wonder, Walcott. What is there really for me to add to the debate that has not been mention over the past twenty four hours. I love England and I love the World Cup but I’m realistic. I am a fan of the beautiful game and the best team deserves to win the competition (although that is not always the case, as I am sure those anoraks out there will be quick to point out). England need to play better and I am sure on Sunday afternoon they will put on an improved performance over the course of 90 minutes. England expects. Much much better. My Dad has been gathering a great collection for me, of World Cup pullouts, souvenirs, guides, both Panini and Merlin sticker books (official tournament and FA England respectively) and other merchandise, over the past few weeks. My favourite by far are these stamps thanks to Royal Mail.

World Cup Winners

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