Driving my eldest son, Samson, this morning, we made a queue of every English National Team Single I have heard in my lifetime. From "Three Lions" through "Vindaloo" and New Order's "World in Motion," it all felt very warm but ironic. Then the moment the 1982 World Cup Anthem "This Time" came on, with its chirpy smurf-style synth opening giving way to the pounding marching drum beat and lyrics filled with naive promise, I just started sobbing. I was instantly transported back to the summer of '82; of being 11 years old and playing that single on repeat on my Dad's record player in the lounge, and never having believed in anything more than Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking when they sang:
"This time, more than any other time, this time
We're gonna find a way
Find a way to get away
This time, getting it all together
We'll get it right."
They didn't. Of Course. They crashed out, cautious yet unbeaten, having conceded just one goal in the five games they played. Eliminated in the weird formatted second group stage all the same. I sobbed for weeks, a boy who had just learned, for the first time in his life, that his gods had clay feet. It was to be the first of many traumas supporting England. A cycle of hyped hope, self-sabotage, impotence, and shattered hope. Losing almost felt core to my sense of national identity. All of which to say, those tears today -- a tiny proportion of the ones I have spent cheering for England before I moved here in my lifetime -- were a reminder of just how seismic today's game is. Especially after the last 17 months in which Britain was ravaged by the pandemic and the heels of the chaos of Brexit. Even though I now ride with the American team, I raise a glass to Gareth Southgate. A remarkable, emotionally intelligent leader and his act of national levitation. Courage.