As the excitement over this summer's football reaches fever pitch, every man and his dog has an opinion on the tournament and England's chances. To avoid stating the obvious, we've got someone a little bit different to give us his take on the team ahead of their first game this evening. Paul Sinha is a trained doctor, an avid quizzer (he's currently ranked 22nd in the National Quiz Rankings) but he's best known as a stand up comedian with a penchant for puns. As a keen football fan, Paul will be giving us his opinions throughout the tournament, starting today with his thoughts on the England team. Here's what he had to say....
“It’s not the despair, I can cope with that, it’s the hope I can’t stand” The above quote has been passed around by football fans for a number of years now, and is an accurate assessment of how many fans feel. I’m sure when John Cleese uttered those words in the excellent 1986 movie Clockwise, he would not have known just how significant they would be to generations of England fans. Starting with John Barnes’ spectacular game-changing efforts against Argentina in 1986, there have been times when the “hope” has been unbearable. In Euro 96 England had the audacity to lead Germany for 13 minutes. Two years later, in the most remarkable game of football I have ever seen England play, they led Argentina for 29 glorious minutes after Michael Owen’s spectacular solo goal. In Euro 2004, a late header from Sol Campbell convinced every England fan in that stadium, myself included, that England had pulled off an improbable victory over Portugal until the cruel intervention of the referee extinguished hope once again. Eight years later the question needs to be asked. Whatever happened to hope? I miss it. I miss looking at the group matches and trying to navigate an improbable route by which England might reach the final and win the whole thing. What on earth happened during eight years of a relentlessly wealthy Premier League, that England now start a European Championships as rank outsiders, and with not an anthemic pop song in sight? I have no idea. I do know that it is almost a relief to be following England with no realistic expectation that they will do well. “Remember Greece” will be the catchphrase doing the rounds this year as we convince ourselves that if Greece can win the whole thing then who knows what a relatively uninspiring but defensively obdurate England team may achieve. So fingers crossed, here’s to an entertaining month, and let’s hope that in December Andy Carroll is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In the real world, I’m tipping the Netherlands.