Hurray! Another World Cup! They’re only every four years and we’ve got a whole 14 days to enjoy (based on the hypothesis that we will draw our first game, win the second, and get battered by Belgium in the third, Tunisia having beaten both Panama and, against the run of play sneaked a win against Belgium, leaving us third in the group and out of the competition).*
Old stick-in-the-muds will have you believe that nobody goes to the pub anymore, preferring to drive their Dacia Sandero to Aldi and pick up a selection of their reasonably priced English ales for an evening in front of the 70″ plasma. Well fie on them! I say the pubs will be packed with joyful (for 13 days) England supporters and that every sport-free Spoons in the country will see a profits crash which will send Timbo straight to the tattoo parlour to have the EU flag emblazoned on his head lest he go to the poor house. You mark my words.
Let’s talk strategy.
You may have your local pub, but it’s always wise to have a backup in case of electrical failure, floods, or other catastrophies. At the last World Cup I went to a giant warehouse type venue to watch the first England game on a screen the size of the moon. Twenty minutes in there was a technical failure leaving a blue screen of death and the nearest pub was twenty five minutes walk away.
If you live in one of these backwaters with only one pub you might have to prepare to be the hero who yells “Everyone to my house!” So just check the state of the place before you leave – we’ve all done a hurried clean up when we realise we’ve been in the middle of our Harry Styles scrapbooking. We all have.
An hour before kick-off is never enough time to secure a seat and you damn well know it. Some people will have been there since opening to make sure they had a spot, and if you’re not willing to do that, or fear that you’ll be hammered and gibbering by the time a ball is kicked, it’s time to go poaching. Here are some ways to spot who might be hoarding a plum seat but will dart off like a frightened rabbit as soon as football comes on. Check for two or more of the following;
A cotton bag for life advertising a book festival
A gin glass
Socks on show
Copy of the Guardian
Looks a bit like Alan Bennett
Keep close to them and pounce at the opportune time. You might even be bold and ask can you simply place your glass on their table because of the overcrowding. This is like placing a flag, it’s meaningless in a court of law but no-one will dare to contravene your territory.
30 minutes before kick-off – get two drinks
At 38 minutes, get two drinks (studies** have shown that most people will attempt to avoid the half time rush at 40 minutes, by which time you’re already at the bar like a genius).
If you need a further drink before 90 minutes, or if there may be significant extra time because Gary Cahill has straight up murdered someone, the time to go is on 67 minutes when statistically a goal is unlikely to be scored.
In the 2014 World Cup 56 goals were scored in the first half versus 83 in the second, with 15 scored after extra time. (This does not include Germany’s drubbing of Brazil, which I have marked as an outlier). This means that by the time your bladder is calling you’re very likely to miss a goal.
In the second half, discounting extra time, the best time to go is in the window between 55 minutes and 63 minutes. There is another brief recess between 76 and 80 but do NOT leave the room in the 80th – 89th minute. Football players are simple creatures and they always seem to realise at this point that the game is about to end, and go on a scoring spree. Minutes to avoid, when statistically the most goals were scored, are 17, 48, 82 and 91.
Do not take this decision lightly. During a gathering for the 1996 Euros my friend Dave left the room to go to the toilet in minute 51 and England immediately scored their second goal. He ran back in on hearing our yells but was still bursting so left again in the 57th minute, and subsequently England scored a third time. Once more he returned to the room, only to run off desperately in the 62nd minute, when England scored their third. At this point we realised that if we scored one more goal Scotland would qualify over Norway and so Dave was not allowed back into the room until final whistle and had to watch through a crack in the door.
This might seem straight forward if you are a multi-millionaire and have therefore bought an Official England shirt but never forget that post-match you may have to walk home looking like a div if you have plastered yourself in patriotic facepaint. There’s nothing sadder than a follower of a team who have been knocked out of a tournament wandering forlornly back home with tear tracks in his clown make-up.
If your national team has not made it to the finals just be aware that your amusing ‘Anyone But England’ shirt might be tolerated by your mates and other regulars, but you are at serious risk from roaming fans whose own local might have thrown them out for being too mental. Prepare a back up shirt which says “Let’s all be friends” on it. This is what I’ll be wearing, you can buy it from Chris (Simpsons Artist) here.
*Some may think this is a foolish prediction to make and that I’ll be red faced should we go further in the competition, let me tell you that I will be very pleased to be rolled out on one of those low budget Channel 5 talking head documentaries like Michael Fish saying he was sure there wasn’t going to be a hurricane.
**There were no studies