But what turned me, and why I will never forgive the English press was a quote in the newspapers the next day. It was from a Coca-Cola advert. "Goodbye Nigeria. At least, you dazzled the world with your luminous shirts". Still smarting from our first world cup exit from the group stages, this incensed me. And from that day, I have hated the England football team, and have quietly rejoiced whenever a result doesn't go their way.
OK, so back to the title of this post. Back then, the press were all waxing lyrical, in the way only English journalists can, about how England's 'golden generation' was coming off age, and how they were going to win the world cup in 2006. A lot of stuff was written, but I remember one article very distinctly. A chap called 'Dan Warren' felt that maybe 2006 was too soon, but that England would definitely win Euro 2008. At the time, he would have been labelled a 'pessimist' such was the height of belief at the time. He felt that Alan Shearer would be England Manager, and he would have a wealth of talent at his arsenal. Looking back at the article now, I can only laugh at his 'foresight', but it's interesting how time has changed what was actually a very realistic outlook. I mean today, all you hear is how English talent is not coming through because of all the foreign players, and how it is affecting the national team, back then is it was:
The recent steady flow of talented young stars has turned into an veritable torrent, with a new teenage hero seemingly unearthed every week.
A brace by 19-year-old Michael Tonge against Liverpool on Wednesday, while 20-year-old Neil Mellor was scoring at the other end, added two more names to this term's astounding production line of promise.
So let's look at Shearer's team of 2008, shall we? Remember, this was written way back in 2003. It is surprisingly accurate, and a lot of these players made it through to the big time, while a few faded into relative obscurity.
And where are they now?
Goalkeepers: Kirkland, so much promise, but an injury ravaged career meant he has never really had his chance at international level. Robinson however, is England's number one, and not on the bench as projected, although a few recent gaffes means that he may not be there for much longer. And who would have imagined that David James would still be contesting for the keeper's spot ??
Defenders: Rio Ferdinand is still going strong. His younger brother Anton Ferdinand is still a rising star though, and not quite international standard. Martin Taylor is now with Birmingham city, and now 27, he had a lot of promise back then, but never made it to the top. Ashley Cole has made the left back position his own, and Shaun Wright-Phillips eventually moved forward and is now regularly playing as a right midfielder for England. John Terry, far from being on the bench is now England captain, and one of the world's top defenders. Wayne Bridge is slowly fading from international reckoning, with the emergence of Joleon Lescott and Nicky Shorey.
Midfielders: Liverpool's Gerrard is now is his prime and is doing very well for England, although his form has dipped in recent weeks. Joe Cole plays on the left now, and is doing ok in what was England's problem position for years. David Dunn is now back with Blackburn Rovers after a spell with Birmingham. Once tagged "the new Gazza", today, he has just one England cap to his name, and his time has come....and gone. And from the bench, Carrick still makes the squad, but Micheal Tonge had his best season in 2002/2003, and never really reached the dizzying heights that were expected of him.
Strikers: Owen and Rooney are still what many regard to be England's best strike partnership. However, a certain Emile Heskey is trying to change that reality, although at 29, he can't really do that for long. Defoe, Defoe. So much talent. Eriksson left him behind for the 2006 world cup, opting to take an untested Theo Walcott, that was the day I confirmed that the man was insane. And as for Neil Mellor, he now plys his trade with Preston North End, never made it to the top, he was king of the reserves at Liverpool then, but injury and bad luck have meant his career never really took off, which is a shame really.
And of course, manager Alan Shearer is now a football pundit with the BBC !!
And as for the 'all conquering England team' they are all hoping that Israel does them a favour against Russia on November 17th, otherwise the match with Croatia a few days later will be largely an academic affair. And all the players listed in this post will have one thing in common, they'll all be home watching someone else win the tournament.
And my hatred of the England team? It's still there, but now that this place is my adopted home, I have to admit that I have come to admire the sense of national pride be it Rugby, football or even curling !! I have to admit, it's infectious, and I only wish Nigerians had the same sense of patriotism and national identity. And sometimes, I get carried away along with them. I'm still not an England fan, but I can see myself rooting for them one day in the near future.