The World Cup is upon us. A month of joy, pessimistic optimism and endlessly predictable, montages of the beautiful game; intercut with helicopter shots of Rio, beautiful girls in bikinis playing football on the beach and the sound of Samba.
But, this time, the mood of the nation seems subdued. And, it's got nothing to do with the politics of inequality, that rage in Brazil.
The would've/could've/should've ghosts of the "golden generation" are, seemingly, being laid to rest. This time, it feels like it'll be OK, if England doesn't win. There just isn't that unrealistic sense of expectation about the place. But, those of us, who've been here before know that all that it'll take is one good result, one flash of inspiration, and we'll be back to business as usual.
You see, winning the World Cup is simple. All you have to do is win 7 games on the trot... The only problem is that you're going to need to beat (at least) 4 of the best teams in the world in the process. Hope and desire will only get you so far. Luck alone, won't win you the World Cup. You have to be the best: or, like the Italians in '82, find a way to beat the best.
So, this time, let's just relax and go with the flow. Wouldn't it be nice, if we just stopped worrying about the results and enjoyed the show? Instead of flapping about goal-line fumbles, dubious off-side decisions, dirty rotten scoundrels or the inevitable penalties, let's, for the sake of all that is good and holy, try to have some fun.
Ah, who am I kidding? I don't care if Ronaldo, somehow, manages to score from inside his own penalty area. I don't care if Messi, runs 85 yards with the ball, passes to himself, shoots, turns away and then, having hit the post on purpose, smashes the rebound into the top corner with an overhead. I don't care if some Chilean kid, I've never heard of, turns out to be better than Platini, smarter than Bergkamp and wilier than Suarez... I don't even care if we get beaten by the Costa Ricans or go out to the Germans on penalties.
I just want want someone in an England shirt to play like Gazza did.
Because, at least, he looked like he was trying to have some fun.