Can spirit of Espana 82 get England past Italy? The omens are mixed...

Had England suffered Dane pain the other night, I had this column all worked out.

By Steve Bone
Sunday, 11th July 2021, 11:00 am
Graham Rix - who of course later managed Pompey - in action for England against France at the 1982 World Cup / Picture: Getty

I was going to cleverly draw comparisons between the national side getting to semi-finals and Pompey to play-off semis, pointing out how they’d each get that far then predictably flop.

Well that’s another great idea out of the window. But at least we have England in an actual final.

As much as I’ve not found this tournament quite as all-consuming as I normally find World Cups and Euro finals, the excitement levels have risen steadily as England have made their way through the rounds, without – it should be pointed out – too many scares up to this point.

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Italy tonight will be a level or two up from any team we’ve faced so far, but then, they may feel the same about having to play Gareth’s guys too.

But I am a little worried about the superstitions that I have used to get England this year, because they’ve all been based on the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, when England were unbeaten.

My England 1982 shirt – a Christmas present last year – has been on for each game and my Espana 82 mug has been used before (but not during) each game.

And you may have spotted a line or two from the greatest England World Cup song of all-time – 1982’s This Time – in my tweets and columns – all geared to us being able to hear the roar of the red, white and blue come Sunday.

At half-time on Wednesday I had to stop myself opening a bag of Wheat Crunchies at half-time – realising they were bacon flavour and therefore quite possibly virtually Danish.

But now, a problem. Who won in 1982? Yep, Italy. Didn't think it through, did I? But I can’t stop now. Because with my help, England, surely, are gonna find a way.

* Since I wrote the above, we have had the sad news that one of the stars of that England 82 team, who went on to play for Pompey - Paul Mariner - has died. He was only 68.

I will always remember the difference he made to the Blues when he came to Fratton for the 1986-87 season, in which his goals, knowhow and general presence up front helped us get promotion to the first division after two near misses. He also had his moments in a struggling team in our one year in the top division. He was highly regarded at Ipswich and the numerous other clubs he represented, and will be much missed.