The John Griff column: Armchair opinionistas... are you sitting comfortably?

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It’s an amazing thing, isn’t it? How the humble armchair can instantly bestow the wisdom of Solomon on any given subject? How many of us discovered a deep and savvy understanding of the beautiful game on Sunday night?

England v Serbia had promised a great deal when the Group C games were first set - and on the night Gareth Southgate’s squad delivered in their opening outing for this year’s Euros as a nation of spectators looked on from the comfort of their living rooms. The final scoreline in England’s favour with a margin of just the one goal thanks to the head of 20 year-old Jude Bellingham was enough to take the early points - but there’s a very long way to go in the tournament for a team which has been tipped as a truly potential winner. At times - including most of the 2nd half - England looked under the gun and there will have been plenty who sighed with relief as the final whistle blew, allowing Messrs Kane, Bellingham, Tripper et al to open their account with 3 points. Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ might have sounded a touch hollow, but a win is a win and on Sunday night England were happy to take it. And so were we.

Football notwithstanding, our armchairs really do confer that sense of certainty to our views. Naturally, we saw things that the referee didn’t in Germany. The aggressively physical play of Serbia’s finest will have had many shouting at our screens and on Monday plenty of debates were being had in office kitchens and around numerous water coolers, some of it concerning crowd trouble, transport to and from the ground, and more. It same could be said of the 6 Nations Rugby, the forthcoming British Grand Prix at Silverstone, next month’s General Election and even the events which made up the Trooping of the Colour in London on Saturday. It was a real pleasure to see the Princess of Wales in public for the first time since the announcement – in her own words - of her medical challenges. Having a full complement of children in tow must have beween a huge comfort to her and we all wish her a speedy, full recovery. That Mother Nature saw fit to let the heavens open on the day will have done nothing to dampen the resolve of those members of the armed forces parading in front of their sovereign - but how many of us participated in conversations about how His Majesty looked standing there on his dais, or the very audible protests against the monarchy outside Buckingham Palace as the royal party stepped out onto the balcony to watch the RAF flypast? Star performers The Red Arrows had roared over our house en route to the capital just a few minutes beforehand and succeeded in drowning out much of the content from those protests. It gave a much larger number of monarchists an opportunity to roar their own support of Charles 3rd. To me it looked like there were reduced numbers of guardsmen drilling on Horseguards - as a little boy my parents to me to see the Trooping the Colour and we sat in the shade of Number 10 Downing Street’s garden wall as what seemed like a sea of red went through its paces. I can still remember the aroma of horse dung…

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Princesses, parades and professional footballers all going through their paces in front of millions of spectators. On these subjects and more almost the entire population has a view, I’m sure. Add to the list the recent commemorations of D-Day, the results of India’s own General Election and speculation over the future aspirations of one Donald J Trump, the American legal system having found him guilty of no less than 34 separate federal crimes. Does anyone NOT have a view on the man and his motivations, however well informed it might be? Of those opinions, does it matter if we express them or not? We’re all entitled to them – do we also have the right to express them however and wherever we choose? There are, of course, countries where that freedom of expression certainly doesn’t exist, and history is full of the details of reprisals – some of them terminal - meted out to those who dared to transgress. I had heard about an element of ‘fan’ trouble before the England game and apparently involving balaclava wearing pro-Russian ‘ultras’. I cannot confirm or deny this – it was simply an opinion which was expressed to me. It opens another debate altogether of course. However well-informed, how well received might our opinions be and what might be their effect on others. Are we back to DJT again? Perhaps – but that is, for now at least, America’s problem.

The Euros have arrived - and millions of opinions are circulating - where else are we the pundits?The Euros have arrived - and millions of opinions are circulating - where else are we the pundits?
The Euros have arrived - and millions of opinions are circulating - where else are we the pundits?

Are our armchairs a form of social media then? How is it that they embolden our pinions to the point where we feel sufficiently comfortable to voice them, however forcibly? Is it a question of the safety and security of being in our own homes? Or do we, in fact leave the more openly opinionated to shout the odds while the rest of us look on? On Sunday night, Twitter was full of amateur punditry before, during and after the game whilst on television all the usual clichés were being traded from the BBC’s virtual reality studio. How many times will they be uttered again before the final on the 14th July - the same day as the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final? Will we have views on both? I can’t imagine we won’t, but the Summer of Sport now firmly with us, whatever the weather, our armchairs will undoubtedly be active stages upon which to hold forth.

As for England v Denmark this evening, that will be a very different prospect. England will be looking to get out of the group stages as cleanly as possible - and then advance. I might be in the pub – if I am I’m sure I’ll be joined by a bar full of amateur pundits. We’ll all have our opinions of what we saw or what we thought we saw - good, bad or ugly.

Is it coming home from Germany, of all places? And will it be sweet, Caroline, if it does?

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