This week the Cutter will be extracting Glenn Beckett’s brilliant new book Following England Abroad. Today he recounts the electric atmosphere for the Three Lions’ Euro clash v Croatia in 2004.
The sound was deafening when the players finally came out onto the pitch and into a white-hot atmosphere. Both teams knew that it was a case of ‘winner takes all’ and you would hope that the England players were buoyed by the sight of thousands and thousands of their fellow countrymen and women, over here to support them on foreign soil. I would conservatively estimate that there were at least 45,000 England fans present that night in the ground, if not more, along with many others, such as my brother, watching the game in a nearby bar. The level of support England receive is completely disproportionate to the level of success we achieve on the field, so I suppose that is purely to the credit of the supporters, who are nowadays easily the best and most loyal supporters in the world, in my opinion.
It was nice to see ‘red’ Gary Neville and ‘scouse’ Steven Gerrard with arms around each other’s shoulders during the national anthem, which hinted at some form of unity within the squad, as most fans have heard rumours about Manchester United and Liverpool players not necessarily getting on like a house on fire when on England duty. Hopefully, it will remain just that: unsubstantiated rumours. To my mind, playing for your country has to rise above anything else, including club rivalries, so hopefully the vast majority of the players also think along similar lines. I know the clubs pay their wages, but representing your nation, your country, should remain the absolute pinnacle for a player, even in these insane times of silly salaries in the Premier League era.
Paul was busy videoing the fans singing ‘God save the Queen,’ but I’m not a fan of this anthem. To me, that is a British anthem and doesn’t really represent England. The Scottish and Welsh don’t play the British anthem, so why should we? They play their own national tunes, as they should, so England must also have its own. Maybe the choice of new national anthem could be put to the vote?
The famous Italian referee, Pierluigi Collina, was the official for the game, which I was more than happy about. Generally speaking, he had tended to be a lucky omen for England down the years, with us grabbing a few wins during important games that he had officiated in. He’s not the best looking bloke in the world, but those piercing eyes and the intense glare he projects seemed to help him gain respect from most coaches and players across Europe. He also reminded me of one of my favourite singers, an Australian front man called Peter Garrett, who used to sing in a band called Midnight Oil. He had an amazing presence and stature, helped by the fact that he was also completely bald and almost seven feet tall.
“A great book and impossible to put down, a must for any football fan”.
Buy Glenn’s book at a special price of £10.74 HERE