A Londoner supporting England
What happens to ingrained club loyalties when the World Cup rolls around? DJ Tayo, co-presenter ‘The Armchair World Cup’ on Radio 5 Live, explains what it’s like to be an Arsenal fan cheering on John Terry
I think Steven Gerrard is a diving cheat who falls over anywhere near the penalty box. I have never, ever forgiven Wayne Rooney for tripping himself up over Sol Campbell's leg in 2004. I find it nauseating that Ashley Cole is as good as he is, a man whose massive talent as a left back is inversely proportionate to his massive wanker-ness as a person. Then there is John Terry, the offspring of a drug-dealing father, and the living, breathing snarling embodiment of all that is wrong with modern football. I say this as a one-eyed, sour grape eating, viciously bitter, season ticket-holding Arsenal fan, one who is unable and unwilling to put club prejudice aside to appreciate football for football's sake. As someone who ALWAYS supports the foreign team in the champions league, even if – heck – especially if they are German.
And yet and yet and yet… this summer I will find myself shoulder to shoulder in front of a screen with ‘opposing’ fans, cheering on the self-same players in their brave attempt to bring back the World Cup trophy. The same bunch I have happily hated for 50 weeks of the last year. You think I'm going to put the worst parts of my petty partisanship to one side and cheer for a squad full of players I have spent the last month abusing? Hell, yes. Won't we all? Because that is the peculiar peculiarity of being an England fan In the World Cup.
At least 17 million people in this country haven't watched a game of football at all since we went out to Portugal in 2006 on penalties. Perhaps I'm no different to them? Switching on my Three Lions love affair for the important events. A big-game-hunter happy to contradict myself in the pursuit of glory. If anyone was so transparent at the Arsenal I'd dismiss them as a part timer not fit to watch the team or wear the shirt. Yet here I am, two faced and with no trace of irony, actually cheering on Frank Lampard? Who knew?
Maybe it's a Premier League thing. Most of the time the England team seems to mean more to the Bury and Blackpool fan that it does to the supporter of a club in the Champions League. The people who travel home and away bearing tattoos and brandishing bellies in quaint town squares all over Europe. True fans worthy of the name who would rightly scoff at me as I take my place in front of the telly, cheering on Our Boys. I'm a fraud. But I'm not the only one. Promise.
Everyone who booed JT at Wembley a few months back will be punching the air if he scores against the USA on Saturday, and I'll be amongst them, plastic flag in one hand, beer in the other while I sing it for In-gur-land. All the way up to July 11 and the finaL... After that? Normal service will resume, of course. The patriotism goes back in the box and the petty tribalism returns. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Listen to DJ Tayo throughout the tournament as part of the 'The Armchair World Cup' on Radio 5 Live with Alan Davies.
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