If anybody from the village went out
to Russia they kept it very quiet.
Barrow Town Football Club helpfully ‘WhatsApped’ hundreds of their
contacts but none were found to be out
in Volgograd, Novgorod, St Petersburg,
Samara or Moscow.
If they were anywhere else, who were they supporting? People just stayed at home, watched their own TVs or went to the pub. And in Barrow they had quite a selection to choose from - with high quality, large-screen TVs.
The Soar Bridge Inn, The Navigation, The Boat House, The Three Crowns, The Hunting Lodge and the Conservative Club all showed the matches and with one exception clearly advertised the games. The exception was The Hunting Lodge which had decided on a low-key approach as they didn’t want noisy supporters disturbing their diners. However, even here, it was on, quietly, above the bar for the regulars.
It all kicked off on Monday June 18th with a win (2-1) against Tunisia. This was expected, so enthusiasm for the whole tournament was still cautious. Yet one house, and van, had been decorated with England flags from the very beginning and that was Pauline and Dave Kimber‘s of New Street. And then England beat Panama (6-1) and hopes rose stratospherically. Kane was a hero. England played Belgium a week later and lost (0-1) but it didn’t matter as they were already through to the Last 16. Shops put flags in their windows or in flower baskets, The Barrow of Treats stuck pics of footballers in theirs, the CO-OP strung paper matryoshka dolls across the ceiling and Peppercorns started selling mini-gingerbread men wearing England shirts.
Once out of the Group Stage, matches
became crucial viewing. The Last 16
game against Columbia was nail-bitingly
tense: the relief of a win after penalties
quite glorious. England managed to
beat Sweden easily (2-0) in the quarter
finals and Rio Ferdinand became ‘a
believer‘ who forecast England would
win the Cup. By this time Peppercorns
had banished their minis and started
selling full-size gingerbread men in the
England strip. Every pub was now rammed
and the singing of ‘It’s Coming Home’
drifted tunelessly along the High Street.
Unbelievably England had reached the
Disappointment lay ahead. After a wonderful first half, Croatia scored two quick goals and won. It was all over. Football didn’t come home. Yet hope lives on. By 2022 the youthful England team will be older and wiser and may go on to triumph in December in Qatar. Fingers crossed…