WORLD CUP COLUMN: This brings us together more than the Royal Family do, or Hilda Ogden leaving Corrie ...
So here it is, the day some of us have waited ten thousand two hundred and thirty four days for.
Yep, 10,234 days since the England national football team last played a World Cup semi final.
Think that’s a long time? Well, it’s been 18,974 days since Bobby Moore received the Jules Rimet Trophy from The Queen.
A lot has changed since July 4, 1990, when Bobby Robson’s England lost on penalties to West Germany in the World Cup semi finals in Turin.
The average price of a house in the UK was £60,000, compared to around £240,000 nowadays.
The price of a litre of petrol 28 years ago? Just over 40p. Now you’ll do well to find a station in the Portsmouth area selling it for under £1.30 a litre.
And how much, on average, was the print of a pint of lager in 1990? Around £1.20. Good luck in finding anywhere selling it for that price these days, even in Wetherspoons.
Thankfully, in order to help pay for houses, petrol and lager, wages have gone up too - but, in comparison terms, not by the same amount. Nowhere near as much, in fact. In 1990, the average UK wage was just under £14,000. Nowadays it’s around double that.
Society-wise, so much has changed since Chris Waddle blazed his spot-kick high and wide into a balmy Italian night - and, unknowingly, began England’s decades of penalty shoot-out woe.
Tim Berners-Lee was still some years away from his Eureka moment when tears started rolling down Paul Gascoigne’s cheeks, and none of us who cried with him could ever have thought that, one day, we would hold the world’s accumulated knowledge in the palm of our hand.
One thing, though, has not changed. It has not changed since 1966 and it has not changed since 1990. It will never change. The England national football team, when things go well, has the power to bring a nation together like nothing else. Not even a Royal Wedding, I hear you ask? No, not even that. Prince Harry’s recent nuptials brought in a peak audience of 13.1m with an average of 8.7m. Over on ITV, the average was 2.5m.
Compare that to the viewing figures for England’s opening World Cup game this year against Tunisia, which attracted a peak audience of 18.3m.
Back in 1981, Charles and Diana’s wedding was watched on TV by over 28m, a huge figure. But that is still four million down on the higher ever UK televisual audience. That was the 1966 World Cup final when some people were on the pitch, in case you needed reminding. Our nation’s finest sporting moment was watched by around 32.3 million - around 200,000 more than watched Diana’s funeral in 1997.
Apart from our football and our Royalty, large swathes of us Brits also love a good soap opera. After all, an astonishing 30m plus tuned in on Christmas Day1986 to see ‘Dirty’ Den Watts serving his wife Angie with divorce papers in Eastenders. I can only presume ITV had nothing decent on at the same time, but that figure truly underlines how soaps are viewed as great entertainment by so many. On New Year’s Day 1986 around 28m viewers watched Eastenders to see Michelle Fowler reveal she was pregnant. On Christmas Day 1987 over 26m watched Hilda Ogden’s final appearance on Coronation Street. Incredible figures really, considering we are dealing with fictional characters rather than real life.
What kind of a nation would we be if Eastenders had attracted more viewers than England winning the football World Cup!!!! I’m not joking either when I say that.
Thankfully, sport is real life. And thankfully, against the odds, England are in another World Cup semi final tonight. I was 21 when I watched the last one. If I’d known I’d have to wait 28 years for the next one, I’d have been mortified. Even more so if you’d have told me a pint by then would cost almost four quid!
Never mind, though. Perhaps it will all be worth the wait. Perhaps our 52 years of hurt is coming to a glorious end.
And, if it does, hopefully more people will be watching than when Hilda Ogen left Weatherfield for the last time ....