In 1998 I can vividly remember watching England vs Argentina with my whole family.
My dad and I were big football fans, but my mum couldn’t identify a football let alone a footballer, my sister positively hated the game, and my brother, who was 8 at the time preferred Boglins.
So, it was strange to sit and watch the game surrounded by them all. We celebrated, despaired and ultimately commiserated with one another when it was all over.
And once it was over, it was well and truly over. It’s never happened again. We have never watched a game together as a family, and also since that day the exploits of England’s football team have never really concerned me.
I’d grown out of football by Euro 2000, only rediscovering a love/hate for it when I watched Huddersfield relegated from Division one.
World Cup 2002 was on too early in the morning to really be enjoyed together, and despite being just 16 by then I was already watching games in the pubs with friends. Our pathetic attempts at beards and smart clothing (and most importantly a very lax policy on serving anybody under age in our locals) ensuring we got served. Watching with my family was a no go at that age.
The 2004 and 2006 tournaments seem to blend in to one another, although seeing Wayne Rooney explode on to the scene in 2004 suddenly reignited my passion, but it was fading hours later when he went off injured against Portugal.
I simply wasn’t cool enough to truly embrace a European Championship without England, so although I watched a lot of games in 2008, I wasn’t overly invested.
2010 was an atrocious World Cup, for England but also just in general. And 2012 we just went along for a ride, with so little expectation and results to match.
However, suddenly this all feels different. It doesn’t feel like “we’re going to win this” but suddenly it feels like I’m starting to truly care about the national side for the first time since 1998.
I’m not a disinterested, trying desperately hard to be cool teen anymore. I’m also no longer a faux intellectual student, who’d prefer to be at Glastonbury rather than watching football anymore either. That latter idea now sounds like hell on earth.
It’s sixteen years on, and what I see is an England team with likeable players, a genuinely decent and pleasant manager, and suitably realistic expectations.
Winning or losing doesn’t really matter to me, but now I’ve stopped pretending to be cool I’ve thawed towards the England team, and I’m ready to support like a 12 year old kid again. Might even invite the family over.
Come on England