Every 4 years, at about this time, I make a point of pulling out my Willie. That’s my World Cup Willie, of course, the mascot of the England football team that competed for and won the 1966 World Cup. (Well, what else do you think I could have been referring to?!)

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4 years ago in my blog ‘1966 and all that’, (see here), I recalled how I went to every England game including the Final. It was indeed a wonderful experience and one that culminated in that memorable final; a triumph that features prominently in the English footballer psyche as both a source of pleasure and frustration.

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Which reminds me of an old joke that goes something like this:

A world-famous psychologist is addressing a full auditorium. He starts out by declaring: “Tonight, I will prove to you, without a shadow of doubt, that the frequency with which an individual indulges in sex directly correlates with their personal happiness.” He first asks for a show of hands of all the people who have sex almost every night. A modest number of hands were raised, all of who seem very happy indeed. He then asks: “How many of you have sex once a week? This time a larger number of hands were raised, all of whom seem to be quite content. He then asks how many have sex once or twice a month? Again a few hands were raised, all of whom seem distinctly less content with their lot. After polling his audience several more times, he notices one guy sitting off to the side with this huge beaming grin on his face.  The psychologist notices that the guy never raised his hand, so he asks him how often he has sex. The guy says, “Once a year!” To which the psychologist asks, “Why are you so happy if you get sex only once a year?” The grinning guy responds, “Tonight’s the night!”

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I don’t know what 2018 holds in store for the England football team. I have a sneaking feeling that things may go better for us than most dare to think. The key, I feel will be whether this team melds into a unit. In 1966, as the tournament started, England had talented individuals but were some way from being a well-oiled unit. I remember feeling quite deflated after the 0-0 draw with Uruguay. However, the team grew as with every game that it played.  The next game versus Mexico England’s start was unexceptional. However all that changed in the 37th minute when Bobby Charlton fired in a beauty, (see here), from well outside the penalty and England’s World Cup campaign finally got up-and-running. Any World Cup only really gets going after the Group Stages. At that point, after all the pre-tournament and group games, a team has to really arrive. And then, of course, there is the possibility of death or triumph by way of penalties. But on the eve of this 2018 World Cup, whereas I may not be grinning stupidly that Sunday July 15th 2018 will be England’s night, I still have a smile on my face at the prospect of what is to come. Bring it on!

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* As in 2014, The Ericle will be placing a minimum (£2) wager on every match and some Friendly Fivers on who will be the Overall Winner. To follow my bets see here.

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