IF you’re English or you’re Welsh, the result of tonight’s match will be straightforward for you. It’ll either be great, or terrible.
But what if you’re a bit of both?
What if your mum’s from Merthyr and your dad’s from Derby?
And what if they’re both from Bangor but you were born and bred in Bradford?
Or vice versa? Which way do you swing? Whose shirt will you be wearing?
If you’re in this situation, you have my sympathy.
Having a dad from Brum and a mum from Zagreb has had many advantages, but for someone stressed out by football at the best of times, it’s been one more nightmare to negotiate.
I’ve not even examined this World Cup draw to see if and when England and Croatia could meet.
I just can’t go through another semi-final like the one I witnessed in Russia last time around.
How you deal with these things says a lot about your personality.
Somebody bright and bubbly would see only positives. How fabulous is this?
I can’t lose! I’m guaranteed to be on the winning side either way!
Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way of framing it like this.
As far as I was concerned, however it turned out, I was going to be on the losing side.
I didn’t celebrate when England scored. I didn’t celebrate when Croatia equalised, or when they went ahead, or when the final whistle went.
I was deeply proud Croatia had got to the final but deeply upset that England hadn’t.
Back in the hotel where my BBC Radio colleagues and I were staying, I went to the bar to drink my joy/sorrow away.
But Chris Waddle kept glowering at me, so I took myself off to bed.
I had no energy to fight him, I’d worn myself out fighting myself.
I’m an England football fan through and through.
I remember like it was yesterday my grandad stopping the car outside a sports shop on the Hagley Road in Quinton in Birmingham.
I think the place — now long gone, like most small sports shops — was called Allsports.
Gravest of sins
He bought me the England shirt for that summer’s World Cup.
I tore the wrapping off and buried my head in the shirt.
I swear I can still smell it.
This was 40 years ago.
Then Croatia came along, with that chequered strip even neutrals seem enamoured of.
And so I fell in love all over again.
And as my Croatian nan used to say, he who sits between two stools will fall between them.
And she was right.
My backside’s still bruised from that night in Moscow.
It’s possible that the Anglo-Welsh among us won’t be tearing themselves apart like this.
Perhaps they took sides a long time ago and aren’t for changing.
This, after all, is what we demand of fans of football clubs.
Here the changing — or even division of — loyalties is the gravest of sins.
I watched England’s Gazza’s Tears semi-final in 1990 with a friend of mine called John.
A really lovely guy, apart from the fact that he was a Villa fan.
Then, going to watch West Brom at Arsenal several years later, I bumped into him.
What was he doing there?
He told me he was now a Gooner, as if I’d be pleased that he wasn’t a Villa fan any more.
Not a bit of it!
He’s a stranger to me now.
Hypocritically enough, I’m inclined to judge some international fans for their choices.
I’ve never been sure about otherwise completely English football fans who walk around in, say, Ireland shirts because their nan was from Tipperary.
This is obviously rich from someone born English, bred English, who sounds English and lives and works in England, who nevertheless owns up to divided loyalties.
To resolve what’s right and wrong here, I suggest a qualification system, similar, but stricter, than the one selectors of national teams have to abide by.
So tonight, in my book, a nan from Narberth or a grandad from Great Yarmouth isn’t qualification enough to support that country.
Only a parent will do.
Or if you were born there and spent a good part of your life there, I’ll let you off.
Otherwise pipe down.
On the other hand, this is all nonsense.
Because apart from being perfectly entitled to support whoever you like, I really don’t think it’s a choice you make.
You don’t choose your team, your team chooses you.
So whether it’s England or Wales which has chosen you to support them tonight, enjoy the game.
THE Z in Generation Z might just stand for zero, as in zero alcohol.
Research suggests more than a quarter of the under-25s don’t touch booze.
This doesn’t surprise me. While problem drinking remains a massive issue, fewer people of all ages drink than you might think.
And of those who do drink, it’s amazing how many are drinking within the Government’s safe drinking guidelines of 14 units a week — that’s roughly seven pints of beer or 14 shots or a bottle and a half of wine, A WEEK!
Incredibly, to heavy drinkers like me, 70 per cent of drinkers ARE drinking within these guidelines. It’s among the other 30 per cent, the big boozers, that most of the problems arise.
I’M not one for too many rules about things, but here’s one I think we need to abide by: No Christmas trees to be erected before the first day of December.
It’s simple, it’s clear and it makes sense.
I must admit, I thought December 1 was the first day of advent, but no, it turns out that’s the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.
So you’d have been within your rights having yours up for two days now.
But what’s the rush? Take your time.
Apart from anything else it’ll save you bother at the other end when, by New Year’s Day, the poor thing’s bone dry and dropping needles everywhere.
Match after match
IT’S great being at a World Cup, but it’s almost as great watching it from home.
Match after match after match. Four a day!
I moaned long and hard about it being in Qatar and will continue to do so long into the future.
But I’m still loving every minute of it.
As for it being played at this time of year, well, how to put this?
All I’m saying is that I agree with a football fan who lowered his voice conspiratorially to say something to me without being overheard: “You know, I’m quite liking it in November.
It’s somehow easier to justify sitting indoors watching football all day. It suits me.”
Also, while our international players might disagree, I suspect we’re enjoying a mid-season break from whatever our club sides are putting us through.
I’VE long given up moaning about footballers’ use of hair products.
That battle’s lost.
If they must, they must. So be it.
And I’m developing a relaxed view of managers and coaches taking too much time with their hairdos, as they’ve generally grown out of gel use, having torn most of their hair out anyway.
But I’m drawing a line with match officials.
Some of their hair arrangements have no place in the game.
So it’s a yellow card from me to the Italian referee Daniele Orsato for all the care he’s put into teasing his quiff into shape.
And I’m afraid it’s a straight red for the Dutchman Danny Makkelie, left, and his slicked-back Ray Reardon tribute.
What’s wrong with these people?
Anyone would think they want to be the centre of attention
Pleased for her
THERE’S a brilliant German TV series on Sky Atlantic called Babylon Berlin.
It’s set in Berlin before the Second World War.
Even as the plot has moved well beyond my comprehension, I’ve stuck with it because it’s generally beautiful to look at, especially the star, Liv Lisa Fries.
I’m not saying I’m obsessed with this woman, but when Germany equalised against Spain on Sunday night, I found myself feeling pleased for her. I just want her to be happy.
THE World Cup, quite rightly, should be all about inclusivity.
And part of that involves attracting the kind of people who don’t watch football week in, week out. I get that.
But I cannot bear the shots of “fans” in the crowds in Qatar who plainly aren’t engaged in the matter at hand.
Classically, this will be someone in a country’s colours who, despite their side hanging on desperately in the 99th minute, will still somehow find time to jump up and wave excitedly at the sight of themselves on the big screen.
There are also the long, lingering shots of the most beautiful women the cameramen (and they are doubtless men) can pick out.
I don’t mind so much if they look engrossed in the match, but please, no pouting to camera.
It’s sexist to show this and it’s probably sexist of me to complain about it and it’s obviously sheer hypocrisy to publish examples of what I’m talking about on this page.
But, honestly, I’m dead against this kind of thing.
THE tricky thing about being reasonably well known is gauging whether people recognise you or not.
Obviously, some do and some don’t.
It’s in a third category – those who can’t quite place you – where the fun lies.
In the past few weeks I’ve had three memorable ones.
“Were you my maths teacher at Malton School?” (I wasn’t.) “Are you John Motson?” (I’m not.)
And, best of all: “Did you used to drink with Dennis Waterman?” (I didn’t, but wish I had.)