Just over six hours to go now to the start of the Football World Cup. This, not the Olympics, is the sporting event that really matters.
In Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Ashley Cole, we have five world-class players (sadly, injury has robbed us of a sixth in Rio Ferdinand) and the draw has been kind. With difficult times ahead, the country could really do with a lift. Could this finally be our year?
These tournaments feel like staging posts in your life. I was 18 in 1990 so had just finished my A-levels. The atmosphere in central Croydon after each victory was fantastic. I can vividly remember watching David Platt's goal against Belgium in the back garden of Tom Tarnowski's house in Sydenham Road. We were lucky to beat them and lucky again against Cameroon but we deserved to beat Germany in the semi-final and, if we had, I think we would have beaten Argentina in the final. We watched the semi-final at Chris Martin's house in Whyteleafe. I smoked about 35 cigarettes during the game (a bad habit I have long since ditched!) and as I type these words I can still remember the sense of utter desolation as Waddle missed the last penalty kick.
We didn't qualify in 1994 following an at times shambolic qualifying campaign brilliantly immortalised in the documentary 'Do I not like that!". The key game was away to Holland on 13th October 1993. I had just started my first job. We produced a heroic display and were denied by an appalling decision by the referee - Ronald Koeman should have been sent off for a professional foul on David Platt and we should have had a penalty, giving us a great opportunity to take the lead 1-0. Koeman compounded the injustice by scoring for Holland seconds later.
In 1998, we met Argentina in the quarter finals. I watched the match in an Indian restaurant called Zara's Kitchen on South End. This game had it all - Michael Owen's wonder goal, David Beckham's moment of madness, Sol Campbell's goal that never was (I was out on the street dancing around thinking we were through) and finally another defeat in a penalty shoot out with David Batty this time the man responsible for that last fateful kick.
2002 was all about Beckham. He got us there virtually single-handed then got his revenge on Argentina. The tournament was held in Japan and South Korea so the games were early in the morning UK time. I watched the Argentina game in a bar in Shoreditch and have no recollection of the rest of the day. We were knocked out in the quarter finals by Brazil, having had the lead at one point, thanks to Ronaldhino's freak free kick.
And finally 2006 - another exit via a penalty shoot out following Rooney's moment of madness, with Jamie Carragher taking the last spot kick.
If I have one wish for this World Cup it is this: if we are going to get knocked out, please let us get properly beaten, thumped, thrashed out of sight. What I can't take any more of is playing badly in the early games but going through followed by a heroic performance against a top team ending in elimination by penalties.