Nickname: Three Lions
US Sports team equivalent: New York Mets, Donna Redskins High School Football
Player to Watch: Diminutive striker Wayne Rooney, who just might be the best player in the world at the moment.
Artist to Watch: London-based dub/grime DJ James Blake.
In the FionaAppleishly-titled Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey – and Even Iraq – Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport, authors Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (2010) defined English football fandom as mixture of unrealistic expectations, perpetual shortcoming and scapegoating. However, the authors argue that given the country’s low population relative to its main rivals in France, Italy and Germany, the English fans should be content that their team actually has overperformed with it’s remarkably consistent 66% winning percentage. For those of you keeping score at home, “66″ carries particular significance for English soccer fans. For the inundated: that wasn’t just the year England won the World Cup on its home soil, it was the last time England even played for the championship in any major international football tournament.
Bruce Pegg of City Boy Records was a youngster in England watching that world championship team. Here, he recounts that experience, plus the years since:
“1966. A young 6-year-old boy sits in front of a flickering black-and-white television screen. He knows what he is watching is important because the room is filled with neighbors who only come over when something important is on the television. Suddenly, the announcer says, “There’s some people on the pitch; they think it’s all over!” The boy watches as a ghostly figure kicks a ball hard and high into the back of a net. The announcer calmly tells the story: “It is now!”
The boy knows that things are different now. Everyone is happy, and things will be good from this point on. He runs outside, stopping only to bring a ball with him, and for the next two hours, he kicks the ball incessantly against the house wall. It is as if he has walked out of the thickest of fogs and into vivid consciousness. But, even at this young age, the boy know that such joy is always tinged with the sadness of knowing that nothing could ever be this perfect ever again.
As best I can recall, that is what I felt on that most glorious of English summer days in 1966. England had won the World Cup, and my lifelong hero Bobby Moore rubbed his hands on his shorts, true gentleman that he was, and graciously accepted the Jules Rimet trophy from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly after, he was lifted high on the shoulders of his teammates, an iconic image that is burned in the hearts of minds of all of my generation.
Like so many Englishmen, I think I have spent my life waiting to recapture that moment. And like so many Englishmen, I have lived the agonies since: Gerd Muller’s brace in 1970; the ignominy of not qualifying in 1974 (at the hands of Poland, at Wembley no less); the Hand of God in 1986; Gazza’s tears in 1990; the mediocrity of World Cups since. And as we wait, poised before another World Cup, I am waiting to see if that seemingly eternal disappointment will be our fate once more.
So I turn to a song recorded just months before that brief, shining moment, by a band that was, at that point and even now, synonymous with Swinging London and those few brief post-war years when former glories were relived and glorious futures were imagined. The Rolling Stones, by this time a mere 3 years into their career, had just released Aftermath, on which, nestled among the blockbuster hits, was a hidden gem, a reflective piece that should serve as the unofficial anthem of England fans everywhere. The song is “I Am Waiting,” and the lyrics perfectly describe the state of mind we find ourselves in every 4 years. “I am waiting” (in the last verse, “We are waiting”), “I am waiting/Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere.”
With an England side once again full of stars who have yet to deliver at the highest level, we are all wondering who that someone might be.
Later, Jagger sings “See it come along and don’t know where it’s from/Oh yes, you will find out.” Time will only tell, Mick. And we can only hope that, as you sang in another song, that time is on our side this year.”
Bruce was raised in England but now lives in upstate New York. He is the founder of City Boy Records, where the influence of the second-wave of British Heavy Metal lives on. The City Boy YouTube channel can be found here.