How do you break a five year old’s heart? And how does he react ?

12 Jul

5.30am Oh, football. We should be joyous, sporting and full of pride at a team that nobody really fancied prior to the tournament making it all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup. And I am. All of that. But let’s not pretend that after watching England go down 2-1 to Croatia (aet) it doesn’t also feel like the most numbing punch to the gut. Moreso given the one-way traffic of a first half where Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick from the heart of Saunders territory gave supporters an early lead that suggested that the final was in sight. Worse, I’ve got to break a little boy’s heart shortly. HB, normally accustomed to watching Brentford, has invested all his emotional eggs in this England team basket. As a special treat on a school night he was allowed out to watch the first half. He went to bed with the score 1-0 and the game heading in only one direction.

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Watching the replay of THAT free kick. Yessssss

 Let’s not also pretend that the better team didn’t win. Croatia deserved it last night. They accelerated their game in the second half after surviving a pummelling that by all medical logic should have seen them dead on their feet. Attack after attack being broken up by cynical challenge after cynical challenge. Only the referee’s leniency / incompetence keeping them with the regulation 11 players when the teams went in for their half time cuppa. Only a combination of great defending, poor finishing and the linesman’s flag keeping the score at 1-0 to England. Kieran Trippier’s quite delightful free-kick to the top right corner after just five minutes being the difference between the two teams. At least on paper.

HB went back home to bed. “Daddy. Wake me up when you get in and tell me the score” he exhorted. Optimism coursing through his veins and, to be fair, one could understand why. If England had looked in cruise control against Sweden at the weekend after going one up, this seemed to have them in turbo mode. He had already shown me the space on the World Cup wall chart alongside France where he’d be adding England’s name after the game. And then Croatia accelerated. Harry’s sleep remained unbroken. I couldn’t do it to him.

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There’s a big job to do later today. Be strong.

Oh, football. We should be proud. We are. Yet having got so close one can’t deny the genuine disappointment. Can’t deny what a quite wonderful opportunity it was. What an exhilarating moment was unfolding before us. A packed pub, sitting in the shadow of Brentford football club, all pulling together and slowly having their collective hearts broken.

My own take on it at half time was that “This is quite magnificent. But it is also like watching International Brentford.” Chance after chance. Domination on a global scale. A one goal lead but that awful, awful feeling in the darkest recesses of the mind. The feeling that it only takes a second to score a goal and then things would be level on paper. That ultimately, despite all the possession a team may have, balls in the back of the net are the only stat which counts.

Then the second half happened. Then extra time happened. It wasn’t collapse. Far from it. Just an almost inevitable turning of the screw as pressure slowly built and Croatia started to play. If you want the proper facts then the BBC is your place. Go to a reputable website.

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There aren’t many better locations to watch a game of football

For me (Clive) I know what I saw and it’ll stay there forever. A different feeling to Italia ’90 where the ruthless German machine were only ever expected to steamroller Bobby Robson’s boys. Instead, there was genuine belief this time around after Gareth Southgate had inspired a nation to believe.

And ultimately, I guess that’s what we need to take away from this. Winning would have been incredible. Only a moron would say otherwise. Yet at the same time, this collective feeling of wellbeing, of optimism, of hope and of positivity inspired by one man in a waistcoat has been a quite magnificent thing to experience. And for being part of that I can only be truly grateful.

These last few weeks have been incredible. Heading into a tournament where many supporters were, understandably, not even willing to travel. Where the media had painted such a picture of impending horror – and that was just off the pitch. Where nobody gave England a hope on it. Instead, we have had the polar opposite. A team that people can take pride in. A team that have inspired us all.  A tournament that has only captivated from the off.      

So that’s my abiding memory. People united. Communities coming together. Strangers talking to each other. A nation taking pride once more after two years of bitter feuding and self-serving politicians have done their level best to tear us apart. England may have lost but there’s no doom or gloom. Just immense pride.

6.40am Gulp. This is it. HB is calling me. “Daddy. Can I get up? Did England win?“. I sit next to him and break the bad news that, unfortunately, they won’t be in the final. That Croatia played better and won, 2-1.

So we won’t be in the final, then?” he asks me, before adding “but does this mean we still get to see them on Saturday? And if we win that, THEN will we be in the final?

I have no answers here. There’s a deafening silence as he looks up, expectantly. Those big, brown eyes staring up at me and waiting to be told that England will still win the World Cup. The silence suddenly broken by Mrs. Bruzon’s alarm clock going off from the next door room.

“Daddy,” he says. “Mummy’s alarm is going off” and then bursts out laughing.

6.45am All I can hear from his room is “Come on, England. Come on, England”.

Nice one, Gareth!! 

Nick Bruzon

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The Griffin.This community vibe is just one of the things I’ll remember from the 2018 World Cup.

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5 Responses to “How do you break a five year old’s heart? And how does he react ?”

  1. Rob July 12, 2018 at 10:08 am #

    Its the rights of passage Nick. Your dad probably had to do the same with you at some point as this is what it means to be an English football fan. At least he witnessed an unfancied side over achieving rather than a talented side fall short because of bad luck.
    I was disappointed last night; yes it was a fantastic opportunity to get into a world cup and yes, anything could have happened. But the reality if I’m brutally honest is we are probably the 7th or 8th best team in the world, so to make it to the last four is something to be proud of.
    Now bring on the start of the Championship!

  2. Spanish Bee July 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm #

    He is obviously going to be a Brentford supporter so this experience will stand him in good stead. Last time the Bees got relegated to the fourth tier, can’t remember what year it was, my son rang me up to sympathise. He said we was ringing me to thank me because when he was 5 years old I took him to see Barcelona and he has supported them ever since. He thanked me for leading him into a less painful relationship.

  3. Moriarty July 12, 2018 at 7:48 pm #

    They weren’t good enough

  4. David Carney. July 13, 2018 at 7:51 am #

    in the early 1960’s Jimmy Greaves was once dropped from the England Team because he said that when he put an England shirt on the fire went out in his belly. Greaves told the truth and it cost him his England future. Unfortunately that same England problem spoken truthfully (at great personal cost to Greaves) was again evident because the desire, the refusal to accept defeat and the absolute tenacity of Croatia was the telling difference. Both goals conceded by England were very, very preventable. A lead footed group of defenders beaten each time by quick thinking, outnumbered fleet footed forward that should have been prevented from near getting to that final ball. It is about time the England Team and everyone associated with it starts to understand first and foremost that the desire and will to win that has been missing since 1966 needs to reintroduced as a matter of absolute urgency and until it is nothing of significance will be achieved.
    Croatia has a population less than 30% of the size of Metropolitan London, the Country has massive economic and social problems, but its citizens know how to fight and have the absolute desire to win and be successful. The Croats were magnificent, but I keep reading how wonderful England were in defeat and how wonderful the future of football for England will be.
    Time to break the cruel reality of life gently to your son Nick. If not he will endure years of anticipation but no delivery. Time to stop being good losers and start to be good winners and poor losers. Hats off to the Croats and shame upon those continuing to lead English footfall to oblivion. Wednesday was a failure – no way it can be sugar coated as anything else.
    Thank goodness we have Brentford as a beacon to follow because the comparison of an outmanned, outgunned, outspent Croatia is a very similar story to that created by Matthew Benham at Brentford. I only hope that Croatia now carry the trophy this coming weekend and provide another example of what Brentford can achieve this season.
    Also, is it coincidence that the Croatia team colours and Red and White?

  5. simonsapper July 13, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

    One of your best Nick! I’m going to share that as widely as I can.

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