It’s quite easy to pick holes in the governing bodies of the game, credit where its due  though – the decision to increase the amount of teams in the Euro’s has been successful. The Northern Irish and Welsh have definitely added to the tournament, good luck to them, I’d sooner watch them than many others.

The same goes for the Republic. Though they are slightly different. We’re more used to seeing them on the International scene, notably in those great adidas kits of the late 80s and early 90s. When their iconic shirts were worn by cultured players; Brady, McGrath, Sheedy, Houghton, Irwin, Aldridge, Keane.  That talent pool has evaporated and the current Irish side are basically a strong Championship side. Given the limitations of the Irish team, I’m not sure how Martin O’Neill managed to get these labourers to topple the World Champions in qualifying.

Going into this game with Belgium, if you were being generous you could perhaps see them grabbing a 1-1 moral victory, IrishFans2the sort that the Irish seem to specialise in. However, once Belgium took the lead, it was hard to see a way back in. Having said that at 0-0 the Irish should have had a penalty, it wasn’t given, Belgium broke and Lukaku finished.  Ireland were never going to be capable of chasing the game, with space in behind, the likes of Hazard and De Bruyne are capable of destroying most teams. Plodders like John O’Shea and Ciaran Clark have got no chance.

It’s difficult to see a way out the groupfor the Irish now, baring a Ray Houghton moment against Italy.  Which is a shame. The partnership of O’Neill and Roy Keane adds to the spectacle. Agree with him or not, Keane’s arguments and opinions have never been short of engaging, in a sport of dullards his presence is welcome. As is O’Neill, bit of an odd ball but with a real streak of realism. As a pundit in the last World Cup, I remember him cutting through a lot of shite being spoken about how great Louis Van Gaal was for playing 3 centre halves. A visibly irritated but immaculate O’Neill – “Van Gaal didn’t invent football.” As for Keane, he’s not a particularly popular character amongst our support, but his attitude and application are to be admired. The polar opposite of the glorified losers who have plagued Newcastle United for the last 60 years. The influence of Clough on the pair of them is tangible.

The colours of the Republic looked superb in the stadium. They always do.  Obviously that isn’t exclusive to the Irish. After their hard fought battles of independence, the colours of all former colonies shine brighter than those of their soulless imperialistic masters of yesteryear. Be it the West Indian cricket team or the West African football sides.

I’ll not go off on a tired cliché “great craic” spiel,  but the atmosphere around the Ireland game was more enjoyable than Marseille the week before. There wasn’t the edginess or posturing that surrounds an England game, the songs were more varied, less simple and unlike England – they weren’t singing about the IRA. Which made me think perhaps the chasing England got in Marseille could be a watershed moment in supporting the English national team. Singing about wars, the Empire and the IRA is so 20th Century. Singing Rule Britannia is like going on holiday and blasting Cliff Richard around the side of the pool. If we’re going to sing about the Empire, lets at least make it interesting. Why not sing about kidnapping Africans and swapping them for baccy? Or getting the Chinese smacked off their tits?

Actually, scrap that, let’s enter the 21st Century, lets update the England songbook to include the post-industrial decline of Britain. Maybe we could become more self-deprecating given our receding importance on the international scene;

“And now we’ve started looking much older, and our hooligans are second rate like our railways.”

Maybe a bit of Rod for the mums – “I wish that we were hard in real life, like on Twitter.”

The England band can fuck off The Great Escape. What about The Spencer Davis Group – Keep on Running. That would look great in the Quarter Finals as the England fans are Sally Gunnelling the seats of the Stade de France to escape some dippit Hungarian Nazis.

Euro 2016 could even make an impact on the cultural output of Britain. Perhaps Nick Love could make a film about theDannyDyer Marseille chasing. The lead would be played by Danny Dyer of course, who’d be presented as a tall, lean yet muscular South London wide boy, wrapped in continental sportswear that hugs his lithe torso in the most flattering places. We would follow Danny as he navigates his way to the South of France using the Eurostar. The atmosphere on the train would be warm and jovial as he nostalgically engages in tales of battles past with hearty comrades, like D-Day veterans returning to the beaches of Normandy. As an audience we would be drawn in by his witty and charismatic persona built on an understated masculinity that doesn’t go unnoticed by the female civilians on the carriage. Such is the appeal of the boy, his magnetism transcends nationalities.  At one stage he’d be followed into the toilets by a buxom French vixen. For the first time Danny would let himself down “Where’s Pierre? The muggy garlic melt.” The vixen would giggle playfully, the overtly obnoxious nature of the boy overpowered by the lust in her heart , or knickers to be more precise. There would be no graphic scenes, but the facial close ups of his sweaty brow would leave us as viewers in no doubt that the vixen was feasting on his manhood like Steve Bruce at a finger buffet.

On arrival at the Port of Marseille, Danny would be greeted like Bobby Moore at the Upton Park farewell.  All would be well, sun shining, beers flowing, belly laughs. And then Love’s life in film would peak with a Shane Meadows like twist, darker than Josef Mengele’s hard drive. The camera would jolt around as the boy wonder is ambushed by burly Russians who volley his head around the port like the Brazil team in their Nike advert for World Cup ’98. For the first time Love’s work would be acclaimed for its social realism. Ken Loach will wax lyrical about Love holding up a mirror to British society. The consumer society, a world built on image, smoke and mirrors, bullshit – the off the peg hooligan, the economy that doesn’t make anything.  In revealing the boy’s limitations, Love would exposes who he is, who we are, what Britain is – a gobby c**t in a tracksuit.



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