Sadly, I didn’t ever believe it was coming home.

Published: Monday, 12 July 2021

I wrote the headline to this piece with some irony. Regulars know I hate using that phrase. The song should be banned. Should’ve been banned before a ball was kicked at Euro 2020. I’ll explain why later.

It was all so inevitable wasn’t it? Not the outcome in the final, but the scandalous scenes from the mindless yobs who trashed Wembley Way, illegally broke into the stadium, took over disabled areas, stood recklessly in safety aisles - and all that after they’d raised London to the ground. Some of the memes we’ve all seen are disgusting. And these are the very same people that judge others on the social media - without a clue about the personal circumstances of tbeir targets. Doubtless they were the same people racially abusing the three penalty takers that missed. How awful it all looked. And I say that as a proud Englishman abroad. I’ve no idea what the 2500 UEFA suits that fraud Boris Johnson smuggled into England - trashing Covid regulations - actually made of it all. You might be interested to know that I write as I’m flying to Spain for 12 days because I can’t ‘come home’. I’m double-jabbed, PCR safe, but barred from entering my own country, without spending £1750, to enjoy being locked in the Holiday Inn Express for 12 days It’s an absolute outrage.

A word on that populist fool Johnson as well. What on earth was he doing sitting in an England shirt, that was pulled over his own shirt and tie? He looked like one of the yobs trashing Wembley. You’re the PM man. Dress like it. Look like it. Lead. And leave the ‘soccer’ to us.

The reason I mention the ‘suits’ is because the frightening scenes they witnessed won’t leave them quickly. England didn’t just lose the game on Sunday - they almost certainly lost any chance of staging the 2030 WC. Once again - a minority of mindless yobs - purporting to be England fans - spoilt it for the majority. It’s sickening. Try it in Qatar guys. I’ll look forward to that. You won’t find the Police standing back and watching where I live.

Not much of this will sit well with everybody - but again - I speak as an England fan abroad - watching with a distanced perspective. At home - It’s impossible to stand back from the hysteria stirred by the English tabloid press. ‘Ah, we just reflect the mood’, they always argue. No you don’t guys. You drive it. You’ve no idea how it pisses people off outside the borders of England. A case in point - football was never ‘going home’. Football doesn’t belong to England. It belongs to the world. I know. I know. The song is about irony and hurt. I get it. But, if you’re not English, you don’t. It smacks of arrogance. Of ownership. And the rest of Europe can’t wait to see England fail. It’s a tough enough job playing for the country. Why make it harder. I’ve said it before - drop it. Forget it. It’s of it’s era - but it’s well past it’s sell by date now.

What about the Sunday Sun front page? Harry Kane and the boys’ heads superimposed onto Bobby Moore and the boys of ‘66. No. Horrible. Arrogant. And it besmirched the memory of some genuine legends.

Of course, they weren’t alone. The Mirror did it. I love Mirror Sport - but their headline on Wednesday - it’s England v Italy* (*or Denmark). Wow. I know for a fact the Danes were furious. And had VAR not let them down, they might just have made England pay. Sunday’s officials were certainly ready for Sterling and Kane though weren’t they? By the final the Press had decided England were ‘streetwise’ and the Italians masters of ‘dark arts’. It was laughable.

I’m able to say all this because I’m in a perfect place to observe it. One of our beINSPORTS guests said to me ‘I’ve been away for some time now. I can’t believe how the U.K. has changed. (He meant England). It’s so divided. It’s so aggressive’. I haven’t been back for more than a year so I can’t comment - but I can ‘see’ what he means. Brexit has driven a dangerous divide down the middle of the U.K. It was always going to with mini-Trump in No. 10.

So let’s talk about the tournament. My verdict? Good effort guys. No more. Truth is - it was a wasted opportunity. England should’ve won it. You won’t read this elsewhere - but it’s true. They had home advantage. Home crowd. No travel (apart from the trip to Rome). But they only played in fits and starts. What happened to the ‘handbrake off’ football? Apart from quick starts and 10 minutes here and there, I can’t remember any. Watching them in the final I started to wonder if Jose Mourinho was in charge. Italy bossed England after the first 20 minutes.

I’m not convinced that Southgate ever had any idea what his best team was. Why all the chopping and changing? This was put down to ‘tactical nous’ by the Press boys. No it wasn’t. It was a mess. Find a team - like Italy - like most did - and play it. Play your best players. Why not build around Grealish? He’s the one the opposition fear the most. What happened to Foden - described by Guardiola as ‘the best player I’ve ever worked with’?Every change of personnel and system was passed off as ‘genius’.  But it wasn’t. For me it was an admission that we didn’t have a single X1 good enough. If a PL manager had been chopping and changing like it he’d have been pilloried.

There’s no doubt that England have made strides in the right direction. It hasn’t happened overnight and it hasn’t happened because of Gareth Southgate. It’s been a long process - starting with Howard Wilkinson’s decision to force PL clubs to run academies - and the FA to build St. George’s Park. Not that he’ll ever get any credit. The last Englishman to win the top league is now considered a dinosaur. But he’s not. Nor was he. He was a revolutionary.

There’s no question that Southgate is a nice man - but to win at the highest level that isn’t a tool required. He’s worked hard and thrown himself at his job. But I’d change it now - or what happened at Wembley will happen again in Qatar - but long before the final.

Talk to anyone that knows Mancini intimately and they’ll tell you that he’s arrogant. He’s dismissive. He creates division. But he’s a winner. He turned City into winners. His impact on that club was far greater than Guardiola’s. He turned a team of ‘nearly men’ into players that believed. All of a sudden they started coming first. His style wasn’t for everyone - and the big players eventually played him out. There’s no other explanation as to how they lost the Cup Final to relegated Wigan.

So it was nice for me to see him back at Wembley to bury that disgusting behaviour by his senior pro’s at the time. If it wasn’t going to be England - I’m glad it was Italy.

The whole tournament smacked of Southgate being just a bit too clever. Even the penalties were over thought. I felt for Rashford and Sancho - deemed not good enough to play a part in 120 minutes - but asked to go and make fools of themselves in a shoot out. Sorry. That was poor. So they were the best in training? So what? Your first touch of the ball on the night is a pen? No thanks. It was an impossible task. Too clever Gareth.

So in conclusion - I say again - it was good effort. A really good effort. But I can’t see England going any further with Southgate. It it was my choice I’d move heaven and earth to persuade Arsene Wenger to take it. He really could end all the hurt.