Shropshire Star

Matthew Panter: Dreaming of Euros while still clutching onto my Baggies hope

The blue and white babygrow, hand-picked from West Bromwich Albion’s club shop, didn’t work.

Can Harry Kane and co bring home the trophy this time?

That was my first attempt to guide my daughter Eleanor down the path to follow in my footsteps – and those of her grandad Albert and great grandfather Edwin – by becoming a Baggies fan.

And yet, in the sole picture I have of her donning that baby kit, it would be an understatement to say her facial features signalled someone ‘distinctly unimpressed’. There are more positive pictures of her trying sprouts for the first time.

I tried again when she was a toddler, digging out an old yellow and green scarf I’d had as a child and wrapping it around her. It was a blink-and-you’d-miss moment. It was removed, as quick as a flash, faster than the speed of light.

Further efforts followed – “There’s a McDonald’s by the ground,” “I could get you a cuddly Baggie Bird” and “We have a Boiler Man Mascot.”

But it was all in vain. Eleanor doesn’t seem to care about King Carlos Corberan and my beloved Baggies, right now.

She is far too caught up in Taylor Swift to be honest and the disappointment is tough for me to take. It’s hard to shake it off.

And yet there is hope on the horizon and it comes in the form of the Euros, which have just got under way. While I have always been a ‘club over country’ fan, Eleanor has taken a bit of an interest in the beautiful game when it comes to our national sides at major tournaments.

Now 11, she’s shared the heartbreak of the England men’s team falling at the final hurdle and has almost developed that air of resignation we all get when a penalty shoot-out looms. She also roared with delight when football did come home and the Lionesses were crowned winners of Euro 2022 as Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly scored in a 2-1 final victory over Germany at Wembley.

Eleanor getting excited for and England game

She will – unlike that scarf – wear an England shirt and will have her face painted with a flag of St George. Hopefully that football interest will eventually transcend to the Albion.

I think it’s because a sporting spectacle like the Euros helps to bring people together – families, friends, school pals, work colleagues – the entire nation.

We share, as a collective, the gamut of emotions that goes with being an England football fan – hope and expectation beforehand and – that Lionesses success aside – tournaments ending in either dismal failure or a glorious defeat.

When the sun is out and England are on a roll in a tournament, you can feel a notable shift in mood in the country. Pubs pack out – a welcome boost for the hospitality industry – and lager brands deliver offers.

I remember one year, you could get a football wig by buying a particular beer – I’ll be honest, the David Seaman ponytail didn’t suit the back of my balding head.

When England – the men’s or women’s teams – do well you also see junior football clubs enjoy a surge in interest with more boys and girls joining. There’s a feel-good factor and, let’s face it, in the midst of international horrors and election coverage, we could all do with a lift right now.

The only disappointment for me is there’s no official England song this year.

It’s a shame because I love a good football anthem. Hearing them can transport you back to a particular time and illuminate a memory, or create a new one.

But, I guess, we’ll settle for past tunes and, as some people say, the old ones are the best. So I’ll be sticking my football CD on in the car – Des Lynam reciting Rudyard Kipling’s If, World in Motion, Vindaloo and Three Lions.

Yes, in the words of Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and the Lightning Seeds, hopefully, football’s coming home!

We’ve now had 58 years of hurt for the men’s team but it’s never stopped us dreaming.

And I won’t stop dreaming of Eleanor becoming an Albion fan either!

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.