Ben Lowry: From teenage England critic to gutted World Cup fan

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford looks dejected as team mates applaud fans after losing the FIFA World Cup, Semi Final match to Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. England have not won the World Cup since 1966 and have long been underdogs in football. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford looks dejected as team mates applaud fans after losing the FIFA World Cup, Semi Final match to Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. England have not won the World Cup since 1966 and have long been underdogs in football. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

As a boy and well into my teens and 20s, I wanted to see England lose in football games.

It is a common reaction to the English team in Scotland and Ireland. It is to do with a number of things, but mainly the fact that England is a big country, and we are small ones.

But as I have got older I have become increasingly supportive of them, so that on Wednesday I was crushed to see them lose to Croatia, and almost unable to watch when what seemed like a likely win began to slip away in extra time.

If I was to cite an English failing, I would point to the common failing of all big countries: they know they are where all the action seems to be, and they tend to have little interest in smaller countries.

But when the English do pay attention to us, they have none of that chippy resentment of the Celtic fringe that it has of England.

I have barely any English blood in me — the eight surnames of my great grandparents are overwhelmingly Scottish, such as Wilson and Henderson and Ferguson and Blair.

But increasingly I admire the creative, cheerful English and the things they have done for the world, in tandem with the Scots, Irish and Welsh, and of the generosity they have shown this island (that comment will prompt fury and scorn).

They have not won a World Cup in 52 years, unlike comparable sized countries such as Germany (three in that time) and France (one) — a long gap for a mighty country, so now they are underdogs.

They will lift the trophy again soon enough, and what a fine day it will be.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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