The country is showing signs of incipient World Cup fever. It’s spreading like rubella across our roadside advertising hoardings and commercial breaks. It’s haemorrhaging into our newspapers and it’s picked up Terry Venables and put him on top of the Millennium Dome.
World Cups are fun and this is a good thing. Soon it will start infecting the hearts and minds of ordinary non-footballing folk and make them speak in foreign tongues: your managing director’s PA will beetle up to you and ask why Emile Heskey hasn’t scored any points yet, your dentist will hold forth on the mechanics of Gary Barry’s ankle injury and your mum will scream “get into ’em, fuck ’em up” at the little television in the kitchen. People who didn’t care before will strap themselves uninvited onto the same rollercoaster as you for the duration.
We can be a little overprotective. When you’ve emptied your emotional bank account over the last four years sitting through dreary friendlies and scribbling and re-scribbling out potential squads, it can stick in the gullet to watch some spry parvenu leaping up in front of the big screen and reaping the same dividends of jubilation or despair as you.
But my hardline stance to these johnny and jenny-come-latelys has softened after last summer’s Ashes, which failed to embed itself in the collective conscience in the same way as the 2005 series, trapped as it was in the widely inaccessible Sky network. So when you’re banging on at your managing director’s PA about England’s crisis at no.3 and she’s telling you to get out from her personal space, you start to regret the lack of the nationwide sporting hype.
So I welcome unreservedly the onset of World Cup fever. In fact, bring me a cold towel. I’ve already got it.