It has turned out fortunate for me today that destiny appointed Plymouth to be my birth place.
I grew up in a city built around a strong military tradition. Plymouth is a decent sized city on the south coast and is England’s second largest naval port, whilst it is also home to several units of marines and there is a MoD camp not far outside the city too. All in all, the signs of war are etched into my birthplace. Apart from monuments of Sir Francis Drake upon Plymouth Hoe depicting the man playing bowls before beasting the Spanish Armada, and the spirit of discovery with statues of greats like Grenville, Raleigh and Gilbert along the seafront, there is also another, much more striking note struck by the chimes of history. Plymouth was, by all accounts, absolutely flattened in World War Two by the Luftwaffe.
The legacy that the Germans had on the city was to set it back by 50 years. It was rebuilt in the 1950s on the cheap, leaving a soulless mass of concrete for the city centre. Only recently has this been amended. Charles Cross Church is still roofless and decrepid, sat in the middle of a roundabout, a historical landmark of times during the Blitz, a modern hindrance to motorists and those wanting to shop. The War Memorial stands tallest with the thousands of Plymouthian names etched onto it, a timeless reminder of suffering and sacrifice.
And what, you might ask, am I posting this on my blog for? How is this all relevant? Well, tomorrow sees England play Germany in the biggest game of the tournament so far (apart from perhaps the opening game?). Although we like to think we have moved on, there will always be that niggle created by past events between the two nations. Plymouth is just one city affected by the past, there are countless others on both sides of the channel setting similar examples.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not dislike present day Germans. On the whole, we’re over the bitterness, and it is mostly light-hearted banter these days (don’t mention the war!). The history of our nations does not mean that I’ll have an automatic disliking of Herr Klose, Herr Schweinsteiger and co. It’s just, well, I’d like to win this one. A lot.
This isn’t just football, although obviously it is only football. That probably doesn’t make sense so I’ll try to substantiate it. This is bigger than England playing, say, Holland. It means more.
Although England have barely convinced in getting out of the groupstage behind the USA, I still have us down as just about favourites for this one. Germany’s best player is the turk Ozil, and they are stronger than the outfits we have come across so far, but they lack anyone truly world class. I’d expect England to line up as they started against Slovenia with Milner on the right, James in goal and Defoe up top with Rooney. It’ll be a tight one either way. I’ve plumped for a 1-0 victory with John Terry getting the goal. I just hope it doesnt go down to penalties. Cmon lads, role on your finest hour, we’l fight them on safari, we’ll fight them on the High Veldt, yadda yadda ya…