THE Diary has never made any secret of our support for England in several World Cups spanning 36 years. Now though we must ask ourselves a difficult question. To what extent was our support for England expressed in the sure and certain knowledge that they never really had a cat’s chance in hell of ever winning the tournament? It was easy to appear all mature and objective when deep down you knew that it was extremely unlikely that your support would actually be tested in a World Cup final.

Results over the weekend at Russia 2018 however, have brought that prospect much closer.

The countries barring England’s path to the World Cup final on July 15 are Russia, Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland and Columbia whom they face this evening. This is by no means the best squad representing England at a World Cup but nor is it the worst. The same might be said for each of the squads representing those other nations.

If England did reach the final they would most likely be facing a Brazil side which are not even among that anointed country’s top-five World Cup squads. Thus, we must acknowledge this truth: England have never had a better chance of winning the World Cup than at any other time since MCMLXVI.

Certainly, they came very close to reaching the final at Italia 90 when they were beaten by Germany on penalties in the semi-finals, but this year seems different. On balance, your diarist would still continue to back England, yet with each passing day of this tournament the vacuous fanboy mince that passes for objective analysis on the BBC especially makes this task harder.

If I was making a case for England I’d say that few other countries have been cursed by such bad luck in their endeavours to lift the World Cup. In 1970 a mighty England side were 2-0 up against West Germany in the quarter-final before gifting the game to their opponents in extra time. In 1986 they were undone by a goal that never was. In 1998 Beckham’s red card and a penalty shoot-out saw them succumb to Argentina. In 2002 David Seaman’s howler gifted Brazil a winner. In 2006 they out-played Portugal with 10 men before losing on penalties once more. In 2010 only the referee and his assistants failed to see Frank Lampard’s shot cross the goal-line by a yard against the Germans.

If any country deserves a large slice of luck at the World Cup it is England and the way their half of the draw has unfolded seems to indicate that those decades of misfortune are being evened up.

THE Scottish viewing public at Russia 2018 have been given brief glimpses of what might occur if England actually do win the World Cup. In MCMLXVI Denis Law famously took to the golf course during the final at Wembley … and some of those players were actually his chums. In 2018 I think only a year trekking in Kathmandu would offer an escape from the hoopla.

England is a much different country to what it was even 20 years ago. A fever of aggressive patriotism mixed with wretched jingoism seems to have consumed a country I still love and admire. When the political values of people like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have begun to prevail you don’t have to imagine what will happen if England are triumphant. In 2005 every player in England’s test cricket squad was given an honour simply for beating Australia. Expect knighthoods this time around.

There will be books, a film and a six-part fly-on-the-wall documentary series about how England’s triumph brought edgy and deprived neighbourhoods together. It will be interpreted as a signal from on high that Brexit was divinely ordained and only the hardest of hard Brexits will henceforth be acceptable. The Tories will call a snap General Election and win by a landslide. My esteemed colleague Martin Hannan in this paper last week wasn’t really joking when predicting that the mass hysteria might be worth a crucial number of extra Yes votes in a second referendum.

The future of the monarchy will be guaranteed for another century.

It will be St George, King Harry, Churchill, Dunkirk, Wellington, Nelson, Trafalgar, Albion, Robin Hood, Arthur and his burnt cakes, Montgomery of El Alamein, Olivier and Gielgud … for many, many years.


LUIS Pereira broke our young heart in 1974. The Diary was too young to appreciate the brilliant Brazil team of 1970 and so we were relishing seeing them do the business in 1974. This was a snarling, kicking, cheating Brazilian team. The shock of it was like discovering your granny smoking a joint and winching the window-cleaner.

The National:

It took a long time to heal. Pereira was the chief chib merchant of a thoroughly nasty Brazilian lot. In the semi-final against Holland he kicked the great Johan Cruyff so much that it almost caused a diplomatic incident between the two nations.

In distressing scenes Holland’s permanently relaxed supporters almost sat down in non-violent protest. Pereira was a disgrace and almost single-handedly besmirched the reputation of the national team.