Like millions of fans across the country I’ve been totally absorbed by England’s amazing journey in the 2018 World Cup Finals, writes Steve Dann.
I suspect that along with many supporters – including those “once in every four years” footie fans – I’ve also had important choices to make. Should I watch the drama unfold in the comfort of my own home or venture out to a local pub or sports club to share the experience with punters, not to mention those rather irritating, self- opinionated pundits propping up the bar?
My old boss, who loved a regular tipple, used to always stay away from pubs at Christmas time – “too many part-time drinkers,” he bemoaned, “it’s impossible to get served.”
The same can probably be said of some pubs during an England World Cup game which is why, for the qualifying fixtures, I opted to watch in perfect isolation – on the sofa, alongside the dog Zak with a fridge stocked full of Woodforde’s M&S British Lager and Carlsberg Export (both clients by the way) to help me through any highs and lows.
Thankfully, it was mainly highs – aside from a solitary defeat to Belgium – and I was able to focus fully on the game, with no distractions or interjections to annoy me. At the end of 90 minutes I could reflect on the performance in quiet contemplation before sliding off to bed to dream of more World Cup glories.
That said, there was something missing. The atmosphere for one, not to mention the collective joy of experiencing a rare England World Cup victory with complete strangers.
It probably explains why a friend of mine persuaded me to venture down to one of our local pubs for the England v Columbia last 16 tie.
I was promised a giant screen, which in reality was no more than a solitary 55-inch on a pedestal, (size does really matter when it comes to pub TV viewing!) and things kicked off when someone briskly asked me to move on from a stall which had been reserved for a friend of his.
When I finally settled down to watch the game, I quickly realised there was no drinks table service which meant a torturous journey to the bar, stooping low to avoid the jeers of derision which came with inadvertently blocking any view of the action.
The commentary was barely audible, but given the banter and tactical exchanges with fellow drinkers, that hardly mattered.
Half time was a real bonus; the pub staff, adorned in England tops, came around with trays of complimentary pizza and spicy chicken wings which more than compensated for the size of the TV screen. I should add at this point that the pub is what might be described as a community local with a strong food/restaurant offer.
But the real result came after England’s glorious and unexpected success in the penalty shoot-out. We had finally buried the failure of 1990 and our boys were in the quarter finals. Cue scenes of joy, a chorus of “It’s Coming Home” and lots of hugs and even kisses amongst grown men who were old enough to know better.
For last Saturday’s game versus Sweden, we threw an impromptu party at home which proved a winning formula, combining the best of both worlds, but that’s far too much like hard work to repeat for the semi-final.
So with the monumental clash against Croatia just hours a way, it’s time to decide whether I’m home or away. It’s a tough selection dilemma but either way, here’s hoping we’re all raising a glass or two to an England World Cup Final appearance.
After all, pubs and the drinks industry will be the real winners in what is turning out to be a summer to remember!
Steve Dann is a founding director of Fleet Street Communications