I’m not proud of this, but such were my ungovernable emotions after watching England try and try and fail to earn the win over Poland required to reach the 1974 World Cup finals that I stomped out into the night and walked blindly until I found myself up by the posh houses in Chalfont Lane.
And seeing a brick lying, mystifyingly. on the grass verge, I picked it up and hurled it into the nearest garden.
It did not change the fact that Norman Hunter had chosen the wrong option by turning rather than clearing near the halfway line, or that Peter Shilton had flopped rather than dived to stop Jan Domarski’s shot seconds later, or that Kevin Hector’s header two minutes from time had been blocked on the line.
For me, though, it was catharsis. Even if, to others, it may have looked no more than a delinquent and futile act of vandalism.
Anyway what I’m trying to say is, it’s here again. The urge. The pandemic-delayed Euro 2020 football tournament is on, and England, England, England have already shown…
Oh God. l’ve just remembered something else. When England were beaten 1-0 by Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final group stages, I tore every picture of Pele, Jairzinho and co from my football magazines and took them to the end of the garden where I burned them with malevolent satisfaction. That would teach them.
Skip forward 28 years. Please.
Shortly before Glenn Hoddle’s men kicked a ball in anger - or in the case of David Beckham, Diego Simeone - at the 1998 World Cup finals in France I was much taken with what I regarded as sequential proof that the World Cup was destined to return to England.
It went like this: 1966 winner, England; 1970, Brazil; 1974, West Germany; 1978, Argentina; 1982, Italy (but for the purpose of the exercise this can be viewed as a historical turning point, or if you prefer, discarded like the worst sailing performance in a regatta); 1986, Argentina; 1990, Germany; 1994, Brazil. Ergo, in 1998, England complete the mirror image. Topographical certainties.
In retrospect one can appreciate that this approach was flawed.
But now look at this young team. Semi-finalists at the World Cup just three years ago, they’ve just beaten the team that beat them, convincingly, securely, and they’re so young, so full of real talent, Mason Mount threading the passes just like Alan Ball used to, Raheem Sterling bringing all his pace and verve into burning focus, like the sun through a magnifying glass, and a manager who can actually manage men and create a proper, 1966-style sense of team togetherness which…
But I’m getting carried away. Again. And I’m not alone.
Much has been said recently on social media about everything.
But that’s not what I want to talk about right now.
Much has been said recently on social media about the reasons why the England football team are such a focus of hope and, yes, pride. We’ll leave aside the debate about taking the knee, but the decency and commitment of the current crop of England players on that question is - and here I hope and believe I speak for the majority of followers - a cause for deep satisfaction.
The presence in the squad of Marcus Rashford, a man who has stepped outside the traditional lines of sport to make a tangible difference to hungry children and effect political change, is another part of the feelgood factor.
But in truth the identification with one’s national team is a deeper, more primal thing. I’m still not sure it’s a good thing really - but what can you do? If England were to kick, hack, bribe and cheat their way to the World Cup, would I feel proud? I like to think I wouldn’t.
I thought I was clear of it all in 2018. I was in Lausanne, covering athletics, that most civilised of sports - give or take a bit of state-sponsored doping and large-scale corruption. England were on the telly in the hotel bar, playing Colombia in the round of 16.
Up to that point I had deliberately kept a lid on my Pavlovian expectations. OK, we - actually that’s ridiculous, “we” is always too much - they had beaten Tunisia and Panama and lost narrowly to a very good Belgian side.
Enough to progress, but when Yerry Mina equalised Harry Kane’s goal in the third minute of time added on, I realised, and this may have been exacerbated by alcohol consumption, that I was not a convincingly detached observer. I fear I may have surprised, if not shocked, some of my younger, balanced, athletics-loving compadres by the revelation of an old-school - and, frankly, just old - persona.
It went to penalties, England’s traditional area of non-competence. (Reference material for those happy souls not in thrall to the England football team at times of big international competition: The 1990 World Cup semi-final - Germany 4-3. The 1996 European Championship semi-final - Germany 6-5. The 2004 European Championship quarter-final - Portugal 6-5.)
It’s 2-2. Then Jordan Henderson misses. And here we go. Time for another consolatory pint.
But then Andrés Mateus Uribe misses. And Kieran Trippier doesn’t. Hold my beer. And then Carlos Bacca misses.
And then Eric Dier doesn’t.
Rushing out of the door, I gaze for a few dazed seconds at the sunlight on Lake Leman and glory in being English.
As I say, I’m still not sure it’s a good thing…