The strangest thing happened this morning. I got up with a hangover, having last night had a curry and then watched the match at The Mill Hill Services club. I probably had a couple of pints more than I should have. I'd left work, gone straight to the Mill Hill Tandoori to meet a couple of friends, then we adjourned to the club. It was a tense match and with extra time and celebrations, it was not an early night. When I got home, I had to take the dog out for a walk, so by the time I was in bed, my good lady was fast asleep.
This morning I woke up with a sore head, but in a happy mood. I shuffled down and had my porridge. We then took the dogs out for a walk over the fields at the back of the Ridgeway. To my amazement, my wife said "It was a good match, wasn't it". She has previously had zero interest in football. She then told me that the wife of the friend I had a curry and watched the match with, had asked the girls around to for a girls football party. Even more strangely, she then told me that they'd been winding one of the girls up as she'd put a £10 bet on Denmark.
If someone had told me that my wife would be at a girls football party, and winding her mates up for placing dodgy bets, I'd have thought you were mad, but this tournament has been such an amazing journey that I think we are all joining in. I know plenty of females who love football, have season tickets etc, but most in our circle have shown little interest and would rather chat in the kitchen whilst their partners avidly watched in the sitting room.
In part, I think it is the fact that England have an eloquent manager, who acts like a grown up and you can't help but like. Most of the squad are the age of our children and we have marvelled at how eloquent and aware the current brand of footballer is. I asked my wife what is different with this tournament and she said that the problem for her has always been that she associated football with 'sweary, sweaty blokes drinking to much beer". This generation, with players like Marcus Rashford, seem to be a little different. They seem to be using their position to show a degree of moral leadership. Twenty years ago, footballers all seemed to be about WAGS, crashing expensive sports cars and getting caught out for being drunk and cheating on their partners. There was little that my missus would see to admire in such people. We are a family with many sporting associations. My daughter was a national swimming champion, so we know what elite sport is about. My wife has always loved watching swimming and tennis, but until this tournament, football was not on the menu.
I think there was a key moment, when the world shifted on its axis. It is interesting to think that if Sam Allardyce had not been stitched up by The Sun, filmed drinking pints of wine, he'd probably be the manager and we'd probably have a very different team. That sliding doors moment has transformed England as a footballing nation.
It seems to me that football has brought the country closer together and perhaps healed a little of the divisions that have separated us. I think that it is probably too late, but I can't help but wish that we had a Team GB rather than England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. If the whole nation could get together behing our team, then it would be a really unifying force. Unfortunately I think there is now zero chance, with a Scottish Nationalist govt. To me, that is a real shame because I believe we are better together.