‘He can look like God’s gift to the Union Jack soccer hooligan,’ Karl Miller wrote of Paul Gascoigne in July 1990, ‘and yet he can look sweet … He is sure to suffer from the intensified media build-up and cut down that awaits him. But at present, in his early twenties, he is magic, and fairy-tale magic at that.’ The LRB dedicated a front cover to Gascoigne’s tears in Turin in 1990. This year the England midfielder Phil Foden seemed to have dedicated an entire haircut to Gascoigne in an attempt to re-create his ‘Euro 96 vibes’. Foden claims it was inadvertent but doesn’t seem to mind the nickname ‘Stockport Gazza’. Gascoigne has reminded everyone that he was a better player ‘even when drunk’.
As they kick off, I’m thinking about England. I’m thinking I don’t care as much as I used to. The game is slow. I’m trying to tune out a man at the table behind, loudly asking no one but excited at the sound of his own voice: ‘Why is Sterling playing? Bring on Jack Grealish.’
Three weeks after the season ended, the Euros – postponed from last year and still confusingly branded as ‘Euro 2020’ – are about to start and the last couple of months have also seen the finals of the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League, and the announcement and rapid abandonment of a European Super League. If that last sentence leaves you exhausted, spare a thought for the players. Trent Alexander-Arnold isn’t the only one missing the Euros because of an injury. The world stopped but football’s governing bodies barely took a minute. Money and greed, we go again.
Maybe it’s the patriarchy, maybe it’s the salaries, maybe it’s the bloated egos and the time spent wasted rolling around on the grass complaining. Even when you loathe the opposition there’s still admiration for any woman playing at a competitive level.