Roar on the Three Lions

Later today we’ll learn if the England football team is going to reach its first final since those historic events 55 years ago when Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup.

Football reminds us just how much life has changed since 1966. No colour TVs, computers, or mobile phones back then. Alan Ball, who was the youngest member of the squad, was sold to Arsenal five years after the tournament for a then British record fee of £220,000.

Nowadays people are speculating on Jack Grealish going for £88 million. That would be enough to buy 44,000 average family homes in 1966 but of course a pint of beer did only cost 1s 10d in old money.

It’s good that many players now receive decent wages although we need to remember that for every multimillion-pound star, several hundred struggle just to grind out a living and commercialisation is in danger of putting the game beyond too many families.

Football can’t escape politics. There have been complaints from some about players taking the knee in a gesture against racism while even today black players continue to suffer some appalling racist behaviour from socalled fans who scar the beautiful game. We’ve also seen the positive influence football can have in the shape of Marcus Rashford, the product of a poor single parent background, and his campaign for free school meals.

The number of clubs offering activities for children who struggle in mainstream school is something to be proud of, as is the rise of the women’s game with almost three million active players making it the largest women’s sport in England and the present men’s side is testimony to the reality of our multi-cultural society.

Perhaps more than anything England’s progress in the Euro Championship has created a feel-good factor in a country in desperate need of cheering up.

As a Scot who’s lived more of his life in England, I’ll have no problem shouting for England tonight.

Good luck to Gareth Southgate and the boys and thank you for giving us all a reason to be cheerful after such a lousy 18 months.

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Steve McCabe

Steve McCabe is the Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak, and has been an MP continuously since 1 May 1997.

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