As a nation, we have gone football mad again over the past four weeks, having witnessed the transformation of the Three Lions from end-of-the-pier joke to well groomed living history.
The England football team has traditionally been the source of great anxiety for millions of deluded supporters who, without much basis in fact, have long held on to the belief that our footballers would somehow manage to emulate the Boys of ‘66 and bring the ultimate sporting crown back to these shores.
Now a group of young men who, before the second week in June, were known only to followers of the Beautiful Game, are so famous that they are now more talked about on social media than the ‘stars’ of the Millennials’ freakshow of choice, Love Island. Our dreams are now aligned to theirs and their names will long be remembered by a generation who will never forget what seems like the perfect summer, give or take the collective meltdown of our ruling political classes.
Many online wags, using the hashtag #GarethSouthgateWould, have suggested everybody’s favourite manager would get to grips with the farce at Westminster in a way no political leader could.
The man can do no wrong but, do me a favour, and don’t call Our Gareth, pictured, and his band of miracle workers heroes. For the past week or so, I have argued with anybody who would listen that heroes generally don’t drive £100,000 4x4s and nearly never kick footballs for a living. Apparently, the OED definition, “A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”, is open to interpretation. It isn’t. Heroes are men and women who stick their heads above the parapet without much regard for their own welfare, physical or otherwise. Heroes are firefighters who run into burning tower blocks, serve their country on the frontline or spend days meticulously extracting frightened schoolboys from a flooded Thai cave.
Why is it important? Our children need to know the difference between extreme bravery and magnificent sporting achievement – both are admirable but are definitely not the same.