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Hunty’s Column: World Cup Memories

Has the magic of following the national side worn off?

Peter Shilton Photo by Trevor Jones/Getty Images

When the press are more interested in some bloke’s tattoo than how well our national team is doing, it kinda shows how far the standing of England has fallen. Yes, we are only a couple of weeks away from the World Cup. In years gone by, the papers would be stirring up the nation’s emotions in the build-up to the tournament. They’d create over-the-top hype that our team would finally win for the first time since 1966.

At times we had decent sides. If one or two decisions or a bit of luck had gone our way, we may well have gone on to lift the trophy. 1986 and 1990 spring to mind.

In those teams we genuinely had world class players - Bryan Robson, Peter Shilton and Gary Lineker. Also, players who were Three Lions through and through and were desperate to play for England - Terry Butcher and Stuart Pearce. Chuck the gifted talents of Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and John Barnes into the mix and you can see why we came close.

Don’t forget the managerial genius and top fella, the late great Sir Bobby Robson, who pulled it all together. England fans identified with these guys, regardless of whatever club they played for. These guys were our heroes. You knew that, whatever the match, they would give 100% and more for their country and team mates.

We even had a decent World Cup song, New Order’s World In Motion, which summed up the mood of the country at the time. No offence to our 1982 effort This Time, but it’s like comparing our 106 side to this season’s lot. No Contest! It’s a funny old game when you don’t even have a team song for this year’s World Cup.

Football on TV was special back then as well, not the endless dribble of Sky Sports, but decent commentators and panelists. They were respected and actually knew what they were talking about. I loved the coolness under pressure of Des Lyman, or Walker for that matter, and you also had the commentating geniuses of Brian Moore and John Motson going head-to-head. My God, even Trevor Brooking sounded exciting in those days. Only joking, don’t worry I haven’t lost the plot, he was a snore-fest.

The squad? Well there’s a couple of decent players in there - Harry Kane and, erm hold on, I’ll get back to you on that one. I’m sure we will sneak out of our group though, then the usual complaints about a long league season end our World Cup journey before it’s begun.

I’m even buying a World Cup sticker album for first time in years. I have to teach my little girl all the excitement and ultimate disappointment of life: that moment when you crave a Lionel Messi, but end up with five Gary Cahills that no one wants.

If I’m proved wrong and we do win it? I’ll go through the streets of Wicklow here in Ireland, wearing nothing but an England flag and my pride.

Editor’s note: we’ll hold you to that, Hunty.

Yeah I’m an old git! One day I actually won’t remember the good times of footy, so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Enjoy the summer, enjoy the World Cup!

Here’s to next season. Urzzz!