Watching England play throughout the 90s, and most of the Noughties, I would simply have to partake in a few beers before and during a game just to calm the nerves.
But, during the last few international tournaments, while I’ve wanted the team to win, I’ve been less bothered. I’ve been able to watch games sober and not felt compelled to shout too many expletives at the screen when we’ve (inevitably) lost.
Being a writer, I cannot merely accept this change without some attempt to reason why. Why do I feel less passionate about England in 2016 than I did in 1996? After all, it’s still 23 players wearing the badge, kicking a ball about and trying to win.
Here are a few theories I’m putting out there:
THE PLAYER AGE THEORY
This generation of players is not my generation. I have nothing in common with them, other than I was born in the same country as them. Back in ’96, most of the players in the England squad were around about my age or older. And you can’t help but respect and revere your elders, can you? And you’re bound to relate more to players who are roughly the same age. Younger players inhabit a different world, a world I cannot identify with, so I care less about them. Indeed, I had a feeling when Beckham (who is only a few years younger than me) retired, that he was the last football player I really gave a shit about. And so far, that’s proved to be the case.
THE MY AGE THEORY
Age takes away many things. 20/20 vision. Dark hair. Smooth skin. Muscular suppleness etc. So why not the ability to get passionate about a football tournament too?
THE OTHER THINGS IN LIFE THEORY
I have more important things to worry about than footballing success – like my kids, mortgage, greying hair. Football is no longer the be-all and end-all.
THE SELF-PRESERVATION THEORY
Disappointment after disappointment has dulled my enthusiasm. England simply aren’t good enough to win a tournament and I’ve (sub-consciously) adjusted my expectations accordingly. I’ve got excited about too many tournaments in the past, too many England games only to be thwarted – usually in penalty shoot-outs, that my defence mechanisms are kicking in and saying don’t bother this time, pal. Safe yourself from the misery.