Mark Solomons

Football fans are rejoicing that Euro 2020 is finally over

Football fans are rejoicing that Euro 2020 is finally over
(Getty images)
Text settings

Thank goodness that's over. The Euros were fun and all that but now, please, can we get back to real football instead of this Disneyfied version of the game that brings out the best – and worst – of us?

From little cars that bring the footballs on to the pitch to those toe-curling TV idents for Alipay and other sponsors, it's time to put away the over-glorified spectacle of England losing and concentrate on watching real football with real football fans.

That means getting depressed every other week instead of every other year; looking down our noses at anyone flying a flag from their car or eating popcorn at games or filming themselves watching the match in order to put it on YouTube later.

And hopefully we'll see less of the 'experts' on social media who, to coin that well-worn phrase, have never had to watch a team play on a wet Wednesday at Stoke. I have. In fact the first game I ever saw in the flesh was Stoke v Wolves in a midweek league game back in the early 70s. Even worse, I was born in Stoke on such a night in December 1962. It's a cross I have to bear.

Real football fans have had quite enough of bandwagon-jumping politicians, and others who you just know would rather be in the corporate hospitality suite at Twickenham. Try wearing a football kit over a shirt and tie in a pub in Burnley and see what happens.

Supporting England is all well and good – some of us have travelled to see them lose in Germany, Portugal and other countries during the bad old years of the 'Golden Generation' – but nothing beats moaning in an half-empty stadium during an early round of whatever the League Cup is called these days. Still, at least there's little chance of bumping into Tom Cruise or Prince William at Colchester United's soulless stadium in January so it's not all bad.

Such nights are anathema to many of the Wembley celebs who turn out to support England having discovered they were lifelong football fans after reading Fever Pitch in their thirties. Where were they when some of us were watching Ilford in the Rothman's Isthmian League before the club went bust? Probably enjoying themselves instead.

Spare me these arrivistes who don't know their diamonds from their Christmas Trees when it comes to formations, who haven't seen Kieran Trippier kick a ball for the two seasons he's been playing in Spain and who didn't realise Jack Grealish wore an alice band.

If I want ignorant amateur analysis of the beautiful game I'd rather get it from ignorant amateurs around me in the ground as we slump to yet another 0-0 draw against West Brom thank you.

Instead of watching every game in the Euros, I can now go back to watching my team in the flesh or at least on dodgy internet streams. I can now go back to only tuning in to Match of the Day if we win and fast forward the bits where Gary Lineker asks Danny Murphy to point out how many touches of the ball Kante had in the opposition half.

During the Euros, we watched three ex-footballers spend two hours in the pre-match TV build up all saying the same thing in 100 different ways. From next month, I can look forward, instead, to the bloke in the seat beside me tell everyone why Harry Kane is rubbish.

That's not to say the Euros are a bad thing, even though it's merely a minor tournament compared to the World Cup – an FA Cup compared to the Premier League of a tournament that includes Brazil and Argentina and, er, Iran. It lifted spirits and gave us hope that despite being, probably, the fourth or fifth best team in the world, England could actually win something. Of course England did win something. They beat Germany and that's enough to keep the interest going until next year's global showcase.

And yes, the Euros did unite the public and even rival fans. Tottenham Hotspur tweeted support for Arsenal's wunderkind Bukayo Saka after the appalling racial abuse he suffered for missing a penalty. But come August, Spurs fans will again boo him and his teammates at every opportunity. And so they should. For this is what football is all about. To love one team is to hate all the others.

But it also magnified the underlying racism among supporters and the violence that accompanies matches, particularly those played on a warm Sunday evening which gives fans several hours in which they can drink themselves into oblivion. It may be a minority but it's a big minority and it's been there for decades. You can only gentrify football so much.

No, we've had our fun but real football isn't about fun. It's about being filled with despair, being bled dry financially and being forced to go out in the rain, get on crowded trains, queue for hours to get a pint and coming home again after seeing your side beaten at home by Sheffield United. But that's football and I wouldn't swap it for all the penalty shootouts in the world.