England’s dream of bringing football home is over, and by the time this goes to print we will know whether Croatia or France are the 2018 World Cup champions. 

It’s been a tournament of highs and lows, and despite being a proud Scot and feeling general weariness when asked whether those of us north of the border can summon some support for England, I found myself rooting for our neighbours.

Perhaps it was because the team appeared devoid of ego. Young and with the support of a good manager and team captain, they were an altogether likeable bunch.

On the other hand, Gareth Southgate’s dapper waistcoat most definitely helped seal my support. With many young people looking up to him, his ability to stay calm and collected set the perfect example. Also, I applaud anyone who can make football look suave.

But whatever the reason behind many of us finding ourselves cheering for the England squad, it’s undeniable they set a good example in a sport that gets a lot of stick for anti-social behaviour. 

I don’t claim to know much about the game. In fact, had a football-savvy fly on the wall been present at my flat during the matches, they would have had a right laugh hearing my partner and I (both football rookies) try to correct one another over the offside rule.

The blind leading the blind, a lack of knowledge did not dampen our resolve. Only a quick online search could end the debate, revealing we were both in fact wrong.

Despite my shaky understanding of the rules, it was a World Cup to unite both seasoned fans and amateurs alike. Few days would go by without mention of the games, and whether you were cheering when England won or wholeheartedly supporting any team they played, most of the support was in good humour and spirit. 

And I think we needed some light relief. At a time when we were hearing of unsuccessful Brexit negotiations, with Cabinet members throwing in the towel.

When a largely opposed visit from President Donald Trump was inciting protests and giant blimps, and when we were waiting expectantly to hear the fate of the young Thai boys’ rescue mission, the England team at the World Cup gave us something in which to channel our focus and attention. 

The games proved a way to unite a nation despite our differences, and overall winners or not, I’m grateful for the tense nights of viewing.
Whilst the Three Lions did not – despite many fans’ dreams – bring football home, once the tears dry and the disappointment fades, what they will be bringing back is a new sense of hope and optimism.

They did themselves and the country proud and in our uncertain political times, their matches were a welcome distraction.

Perhaps up and coming Scottish players will be inspired and have a renewed sense of gusto to qualify for the 2022 World Cup – or perhaps I’ve well and truly revealed how little I know about football.