Croydon football supporters' low expectations of Roy Hodgson's England
AS THE Three Lions' Euro 2012 campaign kicked off on Monday against France, hundreds of Croydon workers clocked off early for the game at 5pm. Reporter Ross Lidbetter watched the match at The Bedford Tavern in Sydenham Road – the very street where England manager Roy Hodgson grew up...
SOME were still dressed in their work suits, others wore England shirts.
But the one thing nearly everybody had in common was the lack of expectation.
Some were shocked that the England team was being led by a man who grew up yards from where they were standing.
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Roy Hodgson's bus driver dad Bill moved the family into a London Transport flat in Sydenham Road more than 60 years ago.
Gary Rafferty, bar manager at The Bedford Tavern, said: "I wasn't aware of that, nobody has said anything to me.
"He has come a long way. For a local boy to become England manager is a big thing for him. It's a big coup for the area."
Very few inside the pub expected England to win the tournament – or avoid defeat against France – in stark contrast to the sky-high ambitions of previous competitions.
Phil Skidmore, 30, of Croydon, summed up the mood when he said: "We haven't got a side, the manager is too defensive.
"But you never know – Chelsea managed to win the Champions League playing bad football.
"At the moment we don't expect anything, but you always have expectations when the tournament starts."
And that expectation started to rise when Joleon Lescott headed England into a one-nil lead.
But there was a deathly silence when Samir Nasri equalised for France – with a few seconds pause before many realised his shot had hit the back of the net.
At half-time Mark Nicols, 30, from Caterham, said: "I don't think that we've got a chance.
"I think we'll get out the group and maybe the quarter finals, but we won't beat one of the better teams in the competition.
"It's hard to say anything about Roy Hodgson after one half.
"I think you've got to give him a chance – he's very experienced."
As the second half wore on, France began to pile on the pressure and the fans' laid-back attitude at the beginning of the match was being replaced by sheer nerves.
And when England goalkeeper Joe Hart grabbed the ball in the 80th minute, one man inside the pub shouted: "Hold onto it for ten minutes."
When the final whistle blew there was a ripple of applause as people started to make their way out of the packed pub, past the red and white balloons that were hanging.
The gasps and cheers of the England fans were now replaced by football anthem Three Lions playing – proclaiming "football's coming home'.
That remains to be seen, but stranger things have happened in the beautiful game.
England play Sweden tonight (Friday) at 7.45pm, before their final group game against Ukraine on Tuesday at 7.45pm.
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