Could I cope with England winning the World Cup? The boost it would give Cameron; the fact that John Terry and Steven Gerrard would be national heroes for evermore; the horrible jingoism that would break out. I'm not sure I'd handle all that too well. The sheer crapness of our nationalism rubs me up the wrong way. Car flags and Carling? I'll pass, thanks.
So I find myself in rather an odd position when England play. I take more interest in their games than most, and would currently register somewhere between 'really looking forward to' and 'excited' about tonight's game. It'll be nice to sit down with some friends and a beer and watch a match that we're all interested in. But it's always a bizarre experience, and my hostility to the national team fades into a vague, ironic ambivalence whenever they're actually on the pitch*.
This makes it an incredibly stress-free experience. I can still enjoy England winning, but a defeat or disappointing draw (particularly one punctuated by a characteristic English blooper or two) tends to be met with an wry amusement somewhere between fatalism and smugness. Maybe I'm a 'follower' rather than a 'supporter'- someone interested in the team, but who doesn't care about results.
There's a contradiction at the heart of this experience though. To keep enjoying England games, I need them to win some. Just when do I want them to lose? And there's the crux of the matter- I'm not sure I really do. Actually willing England to lose a game seems to slip over the line marking a lefty awkwardness with nationalism to a rather reactive, snobbish position- denying others their 'inferior' happiness so I can feel superior.
There's a further complication in that- as tournaments progress- I find subconscious support taking over my ironic stance. At least, this is what I've found in the Champions League- particularly in 2005. I've not liked Liverpool since suffering so many intolerably smug fans of theirs at secondary school, and I couldn't bare the thought of them feeling vindicated in their belief that Liverpool Football Club (it's always Liverpool Football Club, isn't it? As if they were somehow more of a football club than anyone else) are indeed The Greatest Team On The Planet. Yet when they staged that comeback, I found myself cheering them on- and I was genuinely delighted when Dudek saved Shevchenko's penalty. Would the same thing happen if David James, or Joe Hart**, or Michael Dawson, or whoever Capello's decided to trust in goal repeated the feat in the World Cup Final? I have a sneaky feeling it would, you know.
*All this will all be complicated further tonight by the fact that Algeria have Adlene Guedioura in their squad- a player I've come to like immensely during his short spell at Wolves so far. I was delighted when he was called up into their squad (despite being uncapped) and chuffed to see him come on in their opening match against Slovenia. The phrase "Good work from Wolverhampton Wanderers' Guedioura" is up there with my moments of the World Cup- though we had Seol Ki-Hyeon at the last World Cup it was fairly apparent he'd played his last game for us after a season in which he looked particularly uninterested, and it's still something of a novelty for me to have Wolves players in the World Cup (Hahnemann and Milijas complete our contingent this time round).
**I'd quite like Joe Hart to win the World Cup because then one of my claims to fame would be significantly more impressive. On my debut for Shifnal CC's second XI some 9 years ago, I strutted out to bat at London Road, Shrewsbury, and saw the home side bring on a lad of about 14. I was quite pleased by this turn of events, hoping it would mean some easy runs- but he proved to be rather rapid and had me caught in the gully- surprised by the bounce- with his third or fourth ball. I distinctly remember wandering back to the pavillion chuntering away, and exclaimed my surprise as to the lad's pace to a teamate. "Aye- he's a good little player. He's better at footy, mind- he's on Shrewsbury Town's books: plays in goal. They reckon he'll be in the first team soon."