“You’re here on your own, come here you nutter,” so said former England manager Terry Venables when I collared him for a photo on my way into the Estadio da Luz in Portugal, brimming with anticipation at the mouth-watering prospect of a quarter final between the host nation and England at Euro 2004.
I’d spent two weeks, on my own, in the Algarve, sunbathing during the day, watching two games of football in the pub come late afternoon or taking the three-hour bus trip to Lisbon and back should I be lucky enough to have tickets.
Ten years later and it seems the industry for the men’s game has done as much as it can to dampen my ardour. The previously dreamy potential-giant-killing FA Cup never recovered from Manchester United, the then best team in the Premier League, opting out of the competition in the 1999-2000 season; the utter thrill of the World Cup, somehow waning my enthusiasm due to the governing body’s voting systems and consequent choice of venues, the 2022 World Cup set to be moved from its traditional summer season due to the searing heat of chosen Middle East host, Qatar.
Both this summer’s venue in Rio, as well as Qatar, have questions to answer over the deaths of construction workers on World Cup sites.
These days it doesn’t even occur to me to sit re-dialling for seven hours on the phone or refreshing internet pages to try and obtain tickets for games.
And yet, an ember of love for the game still flickers, inflamed briefly when my team, Liverpool, put in a cracking performance or when the nicest of characters emerges like the Vincent Kompany’s of this world.
So I’m still there, I’m still interested but there’s so many other sports with whom I’ll now choose to spend my time – from gymnastics to alpine skiing to extreme sports and everything in between – so, much like the England team in international games, if it’s a friendly match I don’t really put much effort in but the games that matter, sadly, now, that’s the only time when I might just switch on the telly.