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2018 World Cup: It’s Coming Home!

Heart beating so hard in my chest that my mum could hear it. Stuart Pearce had missed England’s fourth penalty only moments early. Olaf Thon put West Germany 4-3 up meaning Chris Waddle had to put his penalty away otherwise England would be eliminated from the 1990 World Cup at the semi-finals stage.

First World Cup Memory

“If he misses this,” said a then nine-year-old Pudding, “I’m going to flying kick the living room door down!”

Waddle steps up….and whacks it over the fucking crossbar!

True to my word, I leapt up, launched a flying kick at the door Bruce Lee would have been proud of. My heel went through the door and made a decent sized hole in it. For the love of me I can’t recall what my mum said to me, but I reckon there were a few expletives, whatever it was.

There I was, heartbroken, on the end of a bollocking, grounded and later having to fork out my pocket money to get the glory hole sporting door fixed.

That is my first memory of the World Cup. Italia 90, some 28-years-ago. It was a time when I first started my love affair with football. It was also the first occasion that football would wrench my heart out. It wouldn’t be the last.

I was in love, despite the heartache. Only a game like football can do that to you. My friends and I played football more than ever before in the aftermath of that semi-final defeat all those years ago, and we always beat those fucking Germans.

2018 FIFA World Cup

Fast forward to the present and England have reached their first semi-final of a major tournament since that ill-fated day back in 1990. I’m not one to get carried away, but it’s coming home, football’s coming home and I, for once, believe it.

Not since Euro 1996 can I remember the whole country getting behind the team. Even non-football fans are stood screaming at their televisions and jumping around with strangers like complete lunatics as England score again and continue their march towards the 2018 World Cup Final in Moscow.

I was one of the many who were disappointed with the appointment of Gareth Southgate as England manager. While he had a decent record with our Under 21s, his only over “achievement” was taking Middlesbrough down to the Championship. Hardly the credentials of a world beater.

Now I sit here, on the eve of England versus Croatia with nothing but praise for Southgate. Not only did he have the balls to drop big name players who previous managers would have shoed in regardless of how shit they’d played for their clubs, not only has he managed to gel together a squad that actually looks like they want to be at the World Cup and believe they can win the tournament, he’s managed to win the public over and make them believe in our national football team once again. Those, my friends, are the credentials of a world beater.

Should the unthinkable happen on July 11th and England crash out of the World Cup, I hope that the public stay on Southgate’s side and give the squad a brilliant welcome home. No doubts the tabloids will rip the poor bastards to shreds, but I believe they have done our country proud by showing determination, doggedness and above all class during their time in Russia.

I’d rather us be playing Belgium than France if I am honest. I think we’re more suited to playing against Belgium plus almost all their starting XI play week in week out in the Premier League. As it happens, our little froggy cousins won their semi-final match so we get to play them instead should we overcome Croatia.

Get to the final, kick the fuck out of Kylian Mbappe and we’re in with a shout. I don’t think that will be Southgate’s team talk though.

I can’t remember the last time I was so looking forward to an international game. Maybe it was 28-years ago on July 4, 1990 at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin when England’s lions crashed out of the world Cup. Here’s hoping that the outcome isn’t the same and that I don’t have to pay for any door repairs in the next couple of days. I won’t because it’s coming home!