Gareth Southgate...look what you’ve gone and done
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Gareth Southgate and his team have given us plenty to smile about, but what have they been missing out on? Chris Lakey tries to capture the mood of the nation ahead of the World Cup semi-final against Croatia
They've been Unicorn racing – very apt – tenpin bowling, popped out to the local convenience store for provisions and, in between football matches, look just as relaxed as any bunch of young men away during the summer holidays.
But does the England football team know what's going on at home?
For as calm as they all appear, back home, we're positively shaking with nervous tension.
It might be wise if that doesn't reach the eyes and ears of Harry and Co out in Russia because if they knew what they'd left behind, the pressure would increase even more. You know when people say they carry the hopes of a nation? Well, it's true.
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A 23-strong group of men have millions back home willing them on. When they line up for the national anthem tonight, it will be rattled out at pubs, clubs, pop-up street football stands, homes, workplaces ... you name it, someone will be giving a lung-busting rendition.
And we will kick every ball, scream for every foul and throw in – and no doubt we will shed tears of either huge disappointment or ecstasy come the final, final whistle. In 1970, when England headed to Mexico, the official song was Back Home...
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'Back home, they'll be thinking about us
'When we are far away
'Back home they'll be really behind us
'In every game we play
'They'll share every goal we are scoring
'Out there we will still hear them roaring
'And we'll give all we've got to give
'For the folks back home.'
They really should have adopted that song for this World Cup because that is exactly what is happening.
And when they do get back home, they might just realise how tight was the wringer we went through – and what they missed.
MORE: The man from Norfolk that helped England to the verge of World Cup gloryWe will be forever grateful that they managed to let us forgot about Brexit – hugely important, yet hugely boring at times – until David Davis and Boris Johnson decided to quit. And even then it couldn't overtake the top story of the day in this country.
And we also have them to thank for pollution free roads – tonight, British roads will be relatively clear of traffic jams. The route out of Norwich will be trouble-free, just a trickle, of cars. Even if it snows, Norwich won't be gridlocked within minutes – and that is saying something.
As The Specials sang in 1981, 'This town, is coming like a ghost town; All the clubs have been closed down.'
Except for the second bit – anywhere that sells alcohol has been doing a roaring trade thanks to the feelgood factor. It's amazing what a bit of kickball success can do.
Even tailors are getting a hit, thanks to Gareth Southgate's penchant for the waistcoat.
And talking of Gareth (and back to Brexit), while they were away, their boss became the next best thing to sliced bread. A company called BetStars were offering odds on him becoming the next Prime Minister. Admittedly he was 5,000/1 but, frankly, we could do worse.
'Gareth's captured the hopes and dreams of a nation. Whilst we think it's highly unlikely, could a wave of patriotism and pure elation see Gareth go from dugout to No. 10? Stranger things have happened,' said Ian Marmion, Director of Trading at BetStars. Well, he's right on some bits, but not others.
And if England do win tonight, it might well overshadow Donald Trump's visit to these shores. The Don is expected to attract large and noisy crowds of his own, but if there's still a hangover and a good mood in the air come Friday, he might just get away with it (ok, it's a big 'might', but ...).
There is a serious side to this, though, that the politicians of this country perhaps ought to get used to and understand. This is a multi-racial group of young men representing the country with much more respect than many of those charged with that particular job. Yes, they are paid handsomely, but they have provided the populace with more positivity than any other group of people for quite some time.
Football is a very simple game, yet the effect these men have had has been incredible.
And at the helm is a personable former footballer blessed with intelligence. Marks & Sparks will probably never be the same thanks to Gareth Southgate. Win tonight and on Sunday, and the Queen will have that sword on your shoulder before you can say 'They think it's all over'.