England v Wales pits brother against brother
Greetings and salutations! Sorry there was no blog last week. I have been inundated (one email) with questions about my absence but the simple reason was a family holiday in the Kent countryside.
When you go on a break with three small children, being away from home is not too dissimilar to normal life. In fact the only difference seems to be the number of times you go swimming in the space of five days!
Having put the Speedos back in the drawer, I am now back in the office and getting ready for our first on-the-road programme for a while. The whole of Football Focus comes live from Cardiff on Saturday as we build up to the Wales v England European qualifier at the Millennium Stadium.
It’s the sort of game that takes me back to my youth. When the two countries met back then, the Walker household was always a little strained. My mum is as Welsh as they come. She comes from a miniscule village in the Brecon Beacons, learnt the basics of a line-out at the age of five and cries every time she sings (badly), hears someone else sing or thinks about ‘Land of My Fathers’.
I have no Welsh twang in my accent but my middle name betrays my heritage - Meirion! Before you start – it’s a unisex name – and I have grown to love it even though I spent five years at school suffering Robin Hood-related jibes.
My dad, in stark contrast, is a norf-London lad; a man with a beard who grew up watching his beloved Spurs winning things in the early 1960s.
He took me White Hart Lane for my eighth birthday as part of my football education. I remember him crouching down next to me, pointing at Glenn Hoddle and saying, “That bloke is the best midfielder in England”.
I also remember spending most of the match transfixed by a bloke in front of us with the biggest head I’ve ever seen.
I’ve always grown up an England fan but I think my brother was won over by my mother’s cooking. When England used to face Wales at any sport my brother would wear his red shirt with pride and I would sport the three Lions.
When he says “we” he’s talking about Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Dean Saunders, Ian Rush and Owen Glendower (or Owain Glyndŵr). When I say “we” I have visions of the Underwood brothers, Terry Butcher and Winston Churchill.
Whatever the result of the match, the afternoon would invariably end in some sort of ruck on the living room carpet between the two Walker sons.
The rugby rivalry remains strong, largely thanks to the fact that the two countries meet each year in the Six Nations. The football version has lost something of its pizzazz in recent seasons but there are plenty of Welsh warriors who think that Gary Speed’s men can cause England some serious problems on Saturday.
Yes, the vast majority of these positive thinkers are Welsh. Robbie Savage highlights John Terry and Glen Johnson as England’s weak links and points excitedly at the Welsh midfield with the resurgent Aaron Ramsey and buoyant Gareth Bale.
It’s worth remembering that this time last year England had just beaten Egypt in a friendly and had their eyes on South Africa with the usual high expectations and a manager whose stock could not have been higher.
Twelve months on, they are still licking their World Cup wounds, the captaincy issue is far from resolved and every decision of a once revered manager is now prodded, poked and put under the microscope.
A defeat against the ancient enemy - a sweet win for the Welsh - could perhaps be a humiliation too far for Fabio Capello. It would also force me to have another scrap with my brother.
We are both trying to indoctrinate our children into this rivalry. His eldest son has been wearing the red of Wales since a very early age while attempts to win over my kids seem to be falling on deaf ears.
“We like the ones in white” I told my three-year-old daughter on Saturday as we watched England get pummelled in Dublin. “But I like those green ones daddy... they look like funny trees”.
She got excited when the funny trees were cheering at the end. She also pointed out that white was a “silly colour” because it got so dirty!
I won’t be watching Saturday’s match with the family; I’ll be in the Millennium Stadium after presenting Football Focus from Cardiff.
You’ll hear from Speed, Capello, Terry, Jermaine Defoe and Bale to name a few. We are also taking an Englishman, an Irishman and a Welshman with us - Lee Dixon, Mark Lawrenson and Robbie Savage will be in attendance.
If you’ve got any queries about the show, a question you’d like to put to the guys or any comments about this blog then stick them down below. Alternatively you can follow me during the build-up to the show at twitter.com/danwalkerbbc