THERE can be few more chilling words calculated to send fear into the heart of a fan watching England than – “It’s all on penalties now!”
We have the worst World Cup record for losing on penalties of any other team in the entire competition.
The Three Lions lost on penalties in 1990, again in 1998 and also in 2006 and, while Italy have also lost three times, they at least have the satisfaction of winning one World Cup penalty shoot-out in 2006.
So it is perhaps inevitable that fans get a bit twitchy when the dreaded “p” word crops up.
It doesn’t stop them talking about penalties of course, usually with a fervent prayer that the match doesn’t go that far.
But if it does and England are involved – which knowing our luck is a real possibility – then you’ll need to decide how you are going to watch the penalties being taken.
The following are a few suggestions, but you’ll have to make your own mind up which category your nerves are most suited to.
Group 1, the “Come on England!” This category contains the die-hards, those too loyal to allow reality into their thinking or too mentally scarred from crying after watching the three previous England penalty shoot-outs.
These fans don’t cheer in case it disturbs the England penalty taker. They just stand still as statues holding their pint as the spot-kick is taken. If you hear the sound of smashing glass and calls for a first aid kit then England have missed their first penalty.
Group 2, the drunk “Come on England!” This category is often so befuddled that they don’t actually realise England have missed a penalty or, indeed, that full and extra time are both over.
The last they can remember was going to the bar to get four John Smith’s, a Guinness, two ciders and a port and lemon for Daphne who was well up for it! That plus a trip to the gents means he will likely need serious convincing when he comes back that the match is hanging in the balance with England trying to score in one of the two goals his double vision is now showing him.
Group 3, the “Come on England!” shirt. This category often hunts in packs with some shirts showing crude stitching where they were badly mended after being torn in half following the last England penalty shoot-out defeat.
For such fans it’s all in the chant. This sounds something like “ING-GER-LAND” at the start of the game, “NGLAND” during the game and “BUNCH OF TOSSERS” after we’ve lost the penalty shoot-out.
Group 4, the “Come on England!” 1966 Brigade. This category is not only relaxed but usually offers philosophical comments such as: “Is that Geoff Hurst in the crowd? Could do with him on the pitch”. Jeers of “Who’s Geoff Hurst?” tend to upset them a bit.
They’ve also seen it all before as World Cup winning fans, but they’re all over 50 now because that’s how long it’s been since England fans tasted glory. When it goes to penalties and England miss they’ll think it’s all over….and it probably will be.
Group 5, the “Come on England!”: A New Hope. Like Star Wars, those in this category are light years from home but still feel the Force is with them as they support England in Rio.
So Barrie’s got the Tostao trots, Duncan’s lost his ticket and Pat’s gone to the wrong stadium, who cares. It’s Come on England! all the way.
So I’ll leave you with this thought. Surely we’ve got to win the penalty shoot-out this time!!