Gareth Southgate's England vs Poland...hmm, what else is on TV?

Ian Hart: Despite clearly involving far fewer games, the England have always inflicted a comparable amount of disappointment and frustration on me as the Albion have over the years.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 4:05 pm
England head coach Gareth Southgate will lead his team out against Poland tonight for a World Cup qualifier

In fact when it comes to the Three Lions I went 30 years, four months, and four live games, (Holland, Italy and Scotland at Wembley and Portugal in the World Cup quarter final) without seeing England score a goal in open play.

It was John Terry’s header at the opening of the new Wembley in June 2007 that broke my unenviable duck which went back to Johan Cruyff destroying Don Revie’s England in February 1977.

That said, I’m probably not alone with this school of thought. I’m in the generation, who whilst being alive on July 30 1966, can’t remember Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup, so it has in the main been 55 years of hurt, and counting.

My first memory of an England game, was a Euro quarter final first leg against West Germany in 1972, live on the BBC, but it was a 3-1 footballing lesson from Gunter Netzer.

After that, with a few notable exceptions, it’s been much of the same for the last 49 years. Maybe it’s too much expectation?

Because we think we invented the game, and won in 1966, we almost have a divine right to be perennial winners.

Three times I’ve had the feeling it was ‘our’ year: 1990, 1996 and 2018 and three times fate/Lady Luck has turned huge optimism into abject failure...overbearing frustration and deep disappointment.

In Russia, I was so confident we’d beat Croatia in the semi, we’d already secured black market tickets for the final. With a 1-0 lead at half time, Gene Pitney eat your heart out, I was only 45 minutes from realising a professional ambition and visiting Lenin’s tomb whilst in Moscow.

I don’t know if there is a specific word for the opposite to an epiphany, but I think I had one last week. Two England games live on the TV, Thursday and Sunday, and no desire to watch either of them. As I write this, it’s more than likely Poland at home on Wednesday night will probably complete the hat-trick.

Have I finally fallen out of love with England, or is this just a blip?

Time will tell. Though to be brutally honest the ‘beige’ Gareth Southgate in the dugout doesn’t help. In acting terms, I’d love a Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole or a Richard Harris picking the team, currently we appear to have a William Roache in the hot seat.

That said, if we win the Euros this summer, the nation will be on a high. Football will finally be coming home and I and thousands of others will get their England footballing mojo back, but here we go again, I’m getting red, white and blue deja vu now!