The wall charts are up and I’m planning my schedule for the next few weeks around the big games. I’m braced for yet another emotional roller coaster of delight and despair, if previous World Cup tournaments are anything to go by.
Yes, I have World Cup fever, and the dawn of the 2014 extravaganza has set me thinking about my tournament memories.
Being only three years old in 1966 and too young to recall England’s finest hour, my first World Cup memory is of 1970 and that great save by Gordon Banks from Pele’s downward header in England’s clash with Brazil.
The competitions of 1974 and 1978 were not the same without England, although the Dutch, Argentinian and Scottish teams provided memorable moments.
Of course, as a teenager in the 70s, I assiduously collected World Cup stickers and coins, and I still have them somewhere!
It was not until 1982 that England qualified again and, apart from Bryan Robson’s super-quick goal against France, there was not much to shout about from a domestic point of view, although Northern Ireland provided some lasting interest. It was Paolo Rossi’s tournament on the goals front.
Four years later, well that was much more exciting, but ultimately disappointing…thanks to a certain notorious Diego Maradona.
My happiest memories are of 1990…jumping out of my seat in sheer delight when David Platt struck that amazing late goal against Belgium and kick-started England’s campaign, attending a barbecue for the Scotland v Holland match where I met my future wife, and our first date watching England v Cameroon. How romantic!
Also, on World Cup Final day, my late father married for the second time.
The 1994 World Cup was devoid of England and my most vivid memories of 1998 are Michael Owen’s terrific goal, David Beckham’s sending off and another defeat on penalties – all in one game, against Argentina.
In 2002 there was no shame in England being knocked out in the quarter-final by Brazil, although we had taken the lead, while in 2006 came another elimination on penalties, this time at the hands of Portugal.
Four years ago in South Africa – well, best forgotten to be honest, it was dull but not without controversy as England lost to Germany.
This time around – who knows? Can England’s young lions achieve greatness or will they be homeward bound after the group stage? It’s a tricky group, but it is not impossible for Roy Hodgson’s men to progress.
In any event, one of my sons has Brazil AND England in a sweepstake and another has Holland and Ghana, so there should be plenty to keep us all interested.
Looking back, it’s clear that in World Cups as in life the unexpected often happens, hard work can pay off, but you also require a bit of luck to succeed. There is a need to plan carefully, but also one has to be willing to respond to changing circumstances in thoughtful, creative and constructive ways.
There are certainly many parallels in the business world!