RICK JACKSON: My old World Cup fever has made a comeback

I took it for granted, watching mosquitoes swarm around Raheem Sterling's face as England prepared to kick off against Tunisia in the World Cup.

Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 8:00 pm
England's Raheem Sterling swats away insects in Volgograd on Monday

For all I knew, the game was being played down the road at Fratton Park so good was the high definition picture with full stereo surround sound. The match was actually played in Volgograd, almost 2,500 miles away in southern Russia.

It was a far cry from my first World Cup memories of 1982.

My mum bought me a T-shirt with We’ll Reign In Spain on the front, as Scotland and Northern Ireland had also qualified with England.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I remember watching grainy colour pictures with yellow Spanish titles announcing the England team. Both BBC and ITV commentaries sounded like they were coming down a telephone line.

It added a real atmosphere of distance, of England playing in a foreign land. As Bryan Robson scored after 27 seconds in a 3-1 victory over France, they might as well have been playing on the moon it felt so far away. In fact, the game was played in Bilbao on the northern Spanish coast.

We won our first three matches, qualified for the second phase and drew both games, missing out in the knockout stages to eventual finalists West Germany. How ridiculous, knocked out without losing a match!

The 1986 tournament really was much farther away, in Mexico. Again, grainy, fuzzy pictures and commentators on the telephone, a sense of pride exuded as we went out to Argentina and a cheating Diego Maradona. The top scorer was our very own Gary Lineker.

In 1990 it really was spectacular. Semi-finalists and Paul Gascoigne the star of the show in Italy. But even though the commentary was now clear, the pictures still had a special, continental feel about them.

Over recent years, my passion has died. I no longer wear an England shirt for each game or fly the cross of St George from my house.

I promised myself I wouldn’t be sucked into World Cup fever with England this time.

However, after watching Harry Kane’s brace and Marcus Rashford emerging, it feels like the fever is taking hold again.


What is the point of VAR, Video Assistant Referees, if they are not going to be used consistently.

England should have had a least two penalties after Harry Kane was rugby tackled to the ground by the same Tunisian player on Monday evening.

When you watch the penalty awarded to Croatia after Mario Mandžukić was pulled over by a Nigerian defender, you see how harshly England were treated.

I’m all for VAR but it has to be used consistently and so far in this World Cup, it has not. One thing is for certain, the embarrassment of missing goals, like Frank Lampard’s against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, are a thing of the past.

But would Geoff Hurst’s controversial goal would have been given in 1966?


Great personal stories are now emerging about the World Cup from the fans. Like the two friends from Emsworth, Jamie Marriott and Mitchell Jones.

You may have heard on my show or read in The News, they cycled to Russia to watch England... and made it.

Another great story is about the group of Mexican friends who travelled to the World Cup.

Sadly, one of them was not allowed to go because his wife didn’t give her permission. So his friends have taken a cardboard cutout of him and he’s been to every match with the lads so far.

Let’s hope this feelgood factor around the tournament in Russia remains as reports before the event were worrying, as is the bad reputation of some Russian football ‘supporters’.