It’s Coming Home To Selhurst Park

The dream is over now but already it is clear that the national reaction to a World Cup semi-final defeat is a mixture of sadness and pride.

So, after years of disappointment and disillusionment, the whole country loves the England team (unless you are from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland!) and have become football experts.

With the new season starting in less than four weeks (!) what does all this England fever mean for the supporters of football clubs who live and die football results most of the year, not just for a few weeks every two years?

From the above you might think I am going to lay into these fair weather England supporters as bandwagon jumpers who add nothing to football. My own experience of getting into football would make me a hypocrite if I took that view.

Italia 90 was the first time I really took an interest in football (that and the latter stages of Palace’s FA Cup run earlier in that year). The drama of the matches and the characters involved – not only Gazza, Lineker etc but also Paul Parker, Des Walker and David Platt – all made contributions to a story which is what all great sporting occasions provide. Okay, so it would take another fourteen years (and a six year old son nagging away) to convince me to buy a Palace season ticket, but it was that 1990 World Cup which got it all started for me.

I am sure that most fair weather England supporters will forget about football for at least two more years after the tournament ends but particularly for younger viewers this could be the start of a love for football and that has got to be a good thing.

Sadly, it seems to be requirement that any story about football has to involve press coverage of trouble – drunkenness, damage to property etc. If there is no trouble then that has to be reported on as well due to the novelty.

This World Cup has had both. It has been fantastic to see that all the different nationalities at the tournament mixing so well and the behaviour of the England supporters in Russia has been consistent with the vast majority of football supporters during the season all over the UK.

The exemplary behaviour of all the supporters helped to contribute to a great competition. Yes, the idiots seem to have been left at home and there have been well publicised examples of drunken stupidity in England – cars and ambulances walked over and damaged, traffic blocked, and in South London apparently people thought it was clever to jump off a double decker bus onto a bus shelter! Overall the trouble, to the extent there has been any, fell into the category of drunken stupidity as opposed to anything more malicious. Not much worse than an average Saturday night in any town or city in the country. Not that this is a good thing really.

How does this positivity about the England football team link to Palace?

Gareth Southgate, of course! It really is accurate to describe him as one of our own. Yes, he moved on from Selhurst Park a long time ago but there is still something of the Palace about him. Not showy (afraid a waist coat does not count as flash!), practical, progressive in a low key way but at the same time determined to win. Like Palace, what you see is what you get and for the time being the English public are liking what they see.

There is also a Rueben Loftus-Cheek connection too and his performances for Palace at the end of last season certainly merited his inclusion in the England squad. During the semi-final I was not the only one crying out for him to come on and change the game once Croatia equalised. Alas, he is not our player now, and I am sure I am not the only one hoping we can entice him back, at least for another season on loan.

The other advantage of World Cup fever for us ten month a year supporters, is the distraction from Palace’s now standard lack of or late transfer activity. In the meantime, West Ham United seem to have signed a new player every day.

Now that the World Cup is over, expect the panic to build rapidly. Mind you, the recent quotes from Roy Hodgson suggesting that another battle against relegation beckons with a very limited transfer budget does not set my mind at ease. Of course, he would say this wouldn’t he at this point in the transfer window.

The best thing of all about being perpetual football supporter is my next match has already been and gone – a friendly with Bromley earlier this week, not two years time!




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