For the past few weeks, “It’s coming home” has almost become people’s standard greeting to me.
This morning, it changed to, “How are you feeling?”
And it’s a difficult question to answer.
How am I feeling?
In case you are living under a rock and have no idea what I’m talking about, England went out of the World Cup last night at the semi-final stage, having fallen to a Croatian come back in extra time.
After the final whistle went and the Croatian bench ran onto the pitch, and the England players fell to their knees, and Gareth Southgate came on the pitch and comforted them – I sat in silence.
Crushed. Disheartened. Dismayed.
It was so frustrating, as we could have put the game to bed in the first half. But we looked tired.
I knew the match would be 50/50 coming into it, and that’s what it served up.
But, I tell you what – I was far less crushed than I was two years ago when we went out to Iceland in the first knockout stage of the Euros.
So I write this the morning after, and I’ve had time to think. Yes, I’m gutted we won’t be in the final, nor will we lift the trophy – but, honestly, in response to that question, “How are you feeling?” My answer would have to be:
Proud of an English team that showed us something my generation hadn’t ever seen. I am 30 years old and have had to endure years of disappointing England tournament performances. This time was different. Not only did we have that little bit of luck, we had that excellent team that truly gave everything. That team that capitalised on their potential.
Proud of England as a country. Two years ago, the hooliganism in the Euros was dismal. The country was disgraced. Not this time. This time, the country came together and celebrated in its millions. What else has the power to do that? What else can unite so many people in a common cause? There was no talk about Brexit, about ‘Broken Britain’ – just a country united behind a team.
Proud of the restoration of faith in international football. I have avidly followed England whilst the rest of the country saw the international break as an inconvenient interruption of the Premier League season. Now, maybe we can have a country who does celebrate qualifying for a World Cup again. A country that does adorn their houses in St George’s flag and doesn’t scoff at the one person on their street who has done so.
So yeah, I’m gutted. Very gutted.
But it was still pretty awesome, wasn’t it?