As you may have gathered from reading previous editions of ‘The Red Revolution’, I have something of an obsessive personality. This frightening disorder is not confined within the parameters of Nottingham Forest Football Club either.
I’m prone to compulsive behaviour in all aspects of life and, after getting in with a bad crowd a couple of years ago, I developed a dangerous addiction. It’s an addiction that could well have resurfaced by the time June 8th comes around.
Though the Championship season is drawing to a dramatic close, there’s no need to fret about a long vacuous summer without football this year. We are only 77 days from the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. However, I must admit, I have mixed feelings about the tournament.
On the one hand, I am brimming with hungry anticipation at a feast of knockout football … but on the other, I am fearful that an old habit might consume me once again.
It was around this time of year, back in 2010, when I bought my first batch … What harm can it do? Everybody else is doing it. You only live once.
Those were the whispers and taunts of my so-called friends, as I handed over the money. £1,247 later and I was irreversibly hooked.
I am, of course, talking about the dark and disturbing evils of the Panini sticker album.
The most annoying thing was that, even after all that pointless expenditure, I was nowhere near spiritual fulfilment. I’d got the entire New Zealand squad and 84 Dirk Kuyts … but half the album was still blank.
As for my beloved England, I managed to get most of the squad, but despite my best efforts Wayne Rooney remained missing throughout the entire tournament. I suppose it did give me an insight into how Fabio Capello must have felt.
This compulsion of mine might have been deemed socially acceptable had I have had some sort of child to palm blame onto. I did suggest that creating one might help with the project, but those close to me insisted it was unethical to bring a child into the world solely for the purpose of sticker collection.
The problem was that, being a mature young adult, I had no associates to swap unwanted stickers with. Spending weekday afternoons loitering around the local schoolyard, dealing Emile Heskeys to Year 6’s was frowned upon by the lunchtime supervisors … and eventually, having run out of money, hope of finishing the album was lost.
Of course the sticker addiction is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; I make no secret of the fact that I am unhealthily besotted with football at every level. Although I realise that, when it comes to internationals, not all football fanatics are quite as enthusiastic as me.
Over the last decade or so, international tournaments have sorrowfully wilted in the shadow of the ever-expanding domestic game. It might be that the game is so generic throughout the world these days and subsequently the styles of play don’t differ between countries like they used to. Furthermore, the majority of players on show at tournaments are seen regularly in the Premiership or Champions League, which takes something away from the excitement when international games come around.
The biyearly disappointment of seeing England flunk out at the hands of cheating foreigners, far earlier than is ever hoped, has finally taken its toll on our country’s most ardent football fans.
Or perhaps, to put more realistically, it’s the fact that the English national team has given us absolutely nothing to shout about since 2002, when we last took a meaningful scalp by beating Argentina 1-0 in a fiercely contested group game.
At a click of my nostalgic fingers I will always be able to travel back to that day. After watching the wonderfully tense English victory, a bunch of us played football across the main road, cars triumphantly beeping their horns as they weaved their way around us. ‘Three Lions’ blared from every available stereo, as the nation proudly puffed out its chest and jubilantly waved the flag of St George for all to see. The tangible air of victory still stings my nostrils when I think about that famous day. We were invincible, if only for a moment.
Ten years on and, with regard to England, I’ve felt nothing like it since. Personally, I think it’s about time we made it happen again.
If I’m campaigning for anything it’s for the nation to rekindle its love affair with international football. That alone could be all that’s required for England to be great once more.
I implore you all to embrace Euro 2012 with every working limb, or else these precious international tournaments may one day be a thing of the past.
Throw a football themed party to coincide with the opening ceremony. Make all your guests dress as representatives from each of the competing countries. Put on a spread that embraces all sixteen cultures and ply your guests with intoxicating Polish lagers that will make them want to somersault through the streets when Radi scores the opening goal of the tournament.
The games are on terrestrial television at 5pm and 7.45pm, so there’s no excuse to miss a second of the action. It’s not like when the tournament was held in Japan and Korea and you had to reset your biological clock just to negotiate the erratic match schedule. There’s no need to feign leprosy to get days off work … just crack open a bottle of Tyskie and let the tournament consume you, body and soul.
But be warned, if you find yourself preparing to remortgage your house for sticker money … you’ve probably gone too far!
Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss