And just when it all seemed to be going so well; Jules Rimmet gleaming, 52 years of hurt subsiding all in one thrust of Harry Kane’s neck muscles, three lions roaring on the shirts, it was on its way home.
Ever since a photograph of England’s possible starting line-up for Sunday’s World Cup group game with Panama appeared on the back page of the Daily Mirror, a furore has erupted across social media with a clear division between two camps.
The image suggests that Raheem Sterling will be left out of the crucial fixture against the Central American side, with Marcus Rashford preferred after his lively cameo in England’s victory over Tunisia.
The media and many from the world of public relations and communications have defended the Mirror’s initial right to publish the photo, as well as the right of fellow media sources – including the BBC, who are official broadcast rights holders of the tournament – to publish and report on the mysterious clipboard.
Interesting debate between Danny Murphy and @mrdanwalker earlier.
My take is that England have no one to blame for the leaked team but themselves.
If you put on an open session and invite the world's press to attend, don't be surprised that they're looking for a story. #Eng
— Phil Spencer (@PhilSpenc23) June 22, 2018
Lively debate on all this here between Jenas and Murphy pic.twitter.com/TcrOrRXMaD
— Dan Roan (@danroan) June 22, 2018
As a sports Comms professional I feel the need to agree with this.
You know everything is fair game in an open training session.
The media have done nothing wrong here. It’s their job!
It’s a technical error from England. They will learn from it and move on. https://t.co/BlL3JUN3Dc
— Jamie Fox (@jamiefox1) June 22, 2018
However, armies of former players and fans have criticised the mainstream media for what has been described by some as a deliberate attempt to derail Gareth Southgate’s side’s chances of success.
There have been claims that the British media would rather see England fail and other arguments that there, simply, was no story to tell in the first place.
Especially after @England camp allow media to come into their circle of trust to play darts and socialise with the players so they get to know them… Such a shame they seem to want to shake hands with one hand and stab them in the back with the other… https://t.co/qJ74NC5uWn
— Peter Ramage (@peterramage83) June 22, 2018
Gary Neville tweeted that he believed the move would negatively affect all goodwill that has seemingly existed between media and playing staff in an unusually jovial and relaxed World Cup camp in Repino.
Dan it’s rubbish ! It undermines the relationship and trust with the team! https://t.co/IDEHApnRdJ
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) June 22, 2018
The view from the press is that, ultimately, there was neither malice nor espionage involved in securing the information.
The photograph was taken during an open training session when Steve Holland was standing in plain sight with a clipboard featuring England’s tactical plans.
Whether there was anything remotely unusual or particularly noteworthy to see is a moot point.
The English press are in Russia, not as cheerleaders to indulge their countrymen and bury bad news, but rather to report the news as it happens.
As far as purely sport-specific news goes at a quadrennial World Cup, news doesn’t get much bigger than obtaining team information.
Whether that information should have been reported has created quite the stir. Come Sunday evening, will all be forgiven?