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13-06-2010, 12:15
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Earlier: the town is a scattergun landscape of red and white, flags and shirts; busy supermarket, trolleys loaded with snacks and boxes of beer; on TV some woman – fake tanned, peroxide princess – says it'll be a draw, everyone else says England win, the ex-players, the presenters, the guys outside the ground with a beer in one hand and a vuvuzela in the other, they all say England win because they know you never say it’ll be anything else. Later, to the pub: the town is alive like never before; red and white in all forms; crowns, capes, shirts, flags, horns blaring, faces painted, the singing has started, come on England; an 18-stone lad wrapped in a flag, a dressed-up Saint George with air horn and moped instead of lance and white horse, girls tarted up to still appeal at two, startling white flags on their over-bronzed cheeks; everyone leaves together heading in the same direction, tribal, uniformed, a team going to battle. In the pub: everything the extra cold kind except one unannounced hand pump of Harvey's Best; a nervy undertone to the excited chatter; the lads together in the corner, an order for six pints of Carling, three of Carlsberg, two of Magners, the teams are coming out. The game: emotive anthems followed by a cheer from within come on England; the tension is immediately calmed by Gerrard – the pub collectively jump, cheer and then fall back and relax, the chatter increases, there’s laughter, no worries now; a guy - the only one in the pub eating - his chair breaks, the crowd’s wheeey is almost as loud as the one for the goal, you've had enough chips, mate, they laugh; the laughter rolls around until the mistake brings silence. Change of pub for the second half: bigger, more people, all the ale is football themed (Fever Pitch, Back of the Net, Golden Balls), in here there’s singing to put on a brave front, to cover the increased tension, to feel a part of it, to make a difference; the air horns bring repeated cheers of En-gland, Three Lions is sung every 10 minutes; pints are swallowed between the action, never during; we rise and fall together, cheer or half-look away; we claw desperately to hope, 10 minutes is enough, we can do it in five, four minutes extra fine and we can still do it; it ends. A collective, heavy sigh; a group oh well, we’ll win the next two, (we have to), but it doesn’t hide the disappointment, the broken expectation; we did all we can from our little pub, in this little town, in our patch of England’s pitch, thousands of miles from the team; we came together in force, hope, pride and we found community, shared spirit. We do it all again on Friday.

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