England Blow Up the Balloon of Hope

17/06/2016 10:45 | Updated 17 June 2016

There's a time in the life cycle of sport when we slide from "No. Nope. Absolutely not," to "Maybe. Yes. You can do it, England!"

Soon, we're building ourselves up for the easiest victory since the shortest conflict in history: The Anglo-Zanzibar War - 38 minutes, start to finish, since you asked. And we won.

Some will say, "It's the hope that kills you," but hope never killed anyone. There are plenty of methods for this, but not hope.

And it is hope that gets you out of bed, pins up a wallchart and prompts you to gather your mates and share moments you will remember for a long time. Maybe even weeks.

england fan

The cycle started at the end of the latest major tournament, with defeat and the knowledge that you were dragged in once more. It's like a hangover. You tell yourself, never again - you'll be more realistic next time, like reality is really brilliant or something.

You watch the boys trudge through the early stages, but still you resist. No, siree. You won't get fooled again. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me every two years for a lifetime and well, it starts to look like wilful madness.

But is it? What's so good about writing yourself off? Is saying "I told you so," that much fun? If you think so, you should probably get out more. Or for the benefit of your friends, go out less.

We are a strange breed. For a nation with a high patriotic regard for itself, we don't half apologise a lot. We're not fond a boastful winner either. We like a trier. In truth, we're more Eddie The Eagle than Richard The Lionheart.

Then there's the "Don't count your chickens," thing, when you've had a glimmer of success. Like you should only celebrate that final triumph. What about the little victories? You're not at work and you're watching a game with people who make you giggle. You're already winning.

Revel in every step, so even if you don't quite reach the top of the ladder, you've had a fab time. If you hold off just in case you fail, you might only have the one party, and maybe no party at all. That is wilful madness.

So maybe we're not so crazy, with our flags and posters and hard-to-justify optimism (try to pull yourself back from the precipice of face paint though). Maybe we're not so crazy for filling up our pubs, or inviting everyone round to drinks with some oohs and ahs.

It's no longer 'England Expects', when it comes to football. It's 'England Hopes', just like we do with the weather, our real national pastime. We expect to have a good time. We expect work to be so low on our priorities, it comes after putting out the empties. And we hope for some glory.

football penalty

One thing we could do without is an outbreak of penalties, despite the advertising opportunities they will offer the unlucky player who misses. If we're going to lose, can we do it properly please? Without the football equivalent of waterboarding.

Yes, in blowing up our balloon of hope, we might find it turns into a whoopee cushion. But even that makes a funny sound. What sound does pessimism make? Actually, that might be pretty similar.
On the other hand, that balloon might carry us high as, well, a kite. And given the bargain booze offers throughout the country this summer, that seems highly appropriate.

We might be a funny lot, but then we are top notch laughers. Maybe even champions of having a good time.