England, my England, where did you go?

Itís coming home, I keep being told. And there was a time I couldnít have cared one way or the other, such had been my disconnection with England and the unedifying circus that surrounded our national team.

But somehow these past days I have started re-acquainting myself with those Three Lions (they are not actually) and the flag of St.George. And I have discovered that I do care, who would have thought that?

Now I can be easily dismissed as a miserable old git, moaning about anything and everything when it comes to England. Frequently I have been.

And those of you who are daft enough to read my gibberish on KUMB will know how much I hate social media. But I reluctantly do it, and have slowly discovered these past few weeks how many folk seem to have the same feelings about England that I do.

It's not just me that dislikes the flag waving, the jingoistic nonsense, the cretinous songs and chants, all wrapped up in misplaced supposed national pride. And it hasn't helped that England have been such rubbish, so incapable of putting on a performance of note at a major tournament.

I have always wanted them to win matches, but really could not get very excited about it all.

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The supposed golden generation, the one that have benefited most by the vast wages created by Sky's wealth, failed. And failed miserably. What really was there to get excited about? Too much money, too many flash cars and extravagant wealth. And don't get me going on the WAGS and the media circus that surrounded them.

But something has changed these past few weeks. A thoroughly decent man in Gareth Southgate has produced a campaign that has been carefully planned, thoughtful in its process, with no daft pronouncements and plenty of dignity.

What is there to dislike about this fella? No drum beating, just solid preparation and a team of young men. Yes, millionaires before their time, but players who have bought into Southgate's vision of how the game should be played on and off the field. What a breath of fresh air, what a change from the ludicrous excesses of the past.

This all may blow up in our faces on Saturday when a rigid, organised Sweden stand in England's path to the semi-finals. And there is still France and Brazil lurking in the other half of the draw. But Southgate's squad have already been a success because they have restored many people's faith in England.

I have also rid myself of the very selfish view that I didn't want England to win the World Cup because that's what we did back in '66 and have boasted about ever since. Spurs, with their galaxy of England players, would delight in rubbing our noses in it.

But then I thought of my sons and their mates who just about remember '86 and have had only Italia 90 to get excited about. They deserve to have their golden memories just like I have mine with Bobby, Geoff and Martin.

Back in the day I used to go to Wembley to see West Ham players make their debuts for England, or just play regularly for their country. Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard,(senior) Alan Devonshire, they were from MY club. I so wanted desperately to see Billy Bonds win a cap, and remember watching him limp off a Sheffield Wednesday once knowing that his chance of a cap under Ron Greenwood's management had gone.

Before that it was to see Johnny Byrne, too infrequently in an England shirt. He would have been the fourth West Ham player in that 1966 World Cup winning side, have no doubt about that, had he been fit.

And of course there was Sir Bobby, Sir Geoff and Martin Peters. I am old enough to have been able to walk up to Wembley for the group stages in '66 and just pay your money on the gate. No tickets needed. I was there for the France and Mexico matches. Then my father, who had no choice over what weeks he had for a summer holiday, the company decided, had booked to take us to north Wales. The nearest we ever got to 'abroad'.

I recall him driving back down the A5 on World Cup Final day, as England set about West Germany. We got home in time to see the Germans level, and then for the extra time. The cases and bags were strewn all over the drive.

So I have some previous with England. That was a never to be forgotten day. If you look at the TV footage of the time, Wembley was festooned in the Union flag, barely at red cross in sight. Not any more, then there was an assumption then that everyone wanted England to win. We know it is not like that now, it is just the English and all that entails.

I suppose my disillusion with England has grown with every red cross that has appeared. Like it or not, there has been a different agenda growing, and it has not been pleasant.

The flag of St. George has been hijacked over the decades by every far right bunch you care to mention. The National Front, the BNP, EDF, now UKIP.

I see the National Front tweeted, with little red and white flags, their congratulations to England for beating Columbia. Hypocrites. Southgate called his side typical of the nation's diversity, Eric Dier was brought up in Portugal, Harry Kane's dad is Irish, Raheem Sterling was born in Jamaica, Jessie Lingard's grand parent are from St. Vincent and Dele Alli's dad is Nigerian. That hardly fits with the UKIP ideal.

That flag has sadly meant something different, something racist, something divisive. Not for everyone who follows England of course and carries that flag with them, with just innocent affection for their country. But it's an image I dislike, and I feel many others agree.

And for some people who don't do flags, anthems and misplaced national pride, because of their divisive nature, there has been a growing distance from the England team.

The image abroad of our roving army of drunk louts and thugs has been embarrassing. Again there are many thousands who travel with England whose behaviour is impeccable and are without a racist bone in their body. But there are others.

Reading through social media this week I have been surprised to see many who feel like me, who have fallen out of love with England for all those reasons.

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The days are gone of feeling pride in how West Ham had contributed so many wonderful players to England's cause. There was Bobby Moore obviously, and I have been delighted with the way Joe Cole, Frank Lampard junior, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Rio Ferdinand, have gone on the have long international careers after leaving us. But that well has now run dry, and for many years it seems. Who was the last home-grown West Ham player to play for England while he was on our books?

These are all old and well aired views about England. But this week, after the Columbia game and the disgraceful tactics of the south Americans, I have noticed--and felt it myself-- talk of re-engaging with the national team for the first time in decades.

It's because of the way Southgate's squad have behaved, and how the England manager has carried himself in public.

A thoroughly nice man, decent. His remark that his squad represented the new diverse England struck a cord. There may well still be the fat, bald, tattooed, white angry mob around, but it has not been seen in Russia or on the streets of our major cities this time around.

The embarrassment of the fighting in Marseille has been replaced by decent, responsible fans. I recall seeing one foreign fan on TV having encountered some of our finest describing them as drunks in girlie shoes. Of course they blamed the locals , the heavy handed local police. Whatever, you still didn't want to be associated with them.

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Add to that the abject failure of the FA and various squads to perform to an acceptable level, has produced further disenchantment.

Now, though, there is a different feeling emerging. This is a different England, sadly without a West Ham player in sight, but you can always hope. Just like I and many more who are returning to the fold, will feel on Saturday. COYE.

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