‘I went to Wetherspoons for England’s 1pm World Cup opener and it was bleak’

In a national first, Wetherspoons has announced that the majority of its pubs will be showing the Qatar World Cup, so The Daily Star sent a reporter down to check out the atmosphere of England’s 1pm opener against Iran.

The Three Lions kicked off their campaign in thrilling style, netting six times – but in The Beehive in Brixton the mood was anything but jubilant.

Rain was pouring down on the walk to the boozer and the streets felt eerie, the usual hoards of England shirts and shouts of "It’s Coming Home" nowhere to be found.

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Inside the Beehive punters sat spread out, two small non-HD TV’s usually reserved for rolling news waited nervously on the walls fearful of the hopeful eyes about to beam into them.

Taking a seat I was met by a bloke with a carrier bag full of bacon.

“£50 worth of premium bacon for a tenner?” he asked.

The top of the screen was cut off by a low-hanging beam high above exposed bum cracks and fallen over menus.

My Shipyard was, however, £2.59.

“What do you reckon the score will be?” I asked the bloke next to me.

“No idea, I’ve got zero interest in football mate,” he said.

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Despite being the only person in an England shirt, hushed conversation confirmed that at least some people in there were paying attention.

“Saka, good player, decent player,” one of the old boys holding down the table in front said.

The picture was blurry, punctuated with static flashes but that didn't matter, this was England! In the World Cup!

I was buzzing, the moment we dream of that’s so tantalisingly rare – the first whistle and the prospect of an epic journey for Gareth’s boys.

Three heavy-set builders piled into the seats in front, nipping off for an extended lunch break from their site around the corner.

“Score prediction mate?”

“4-0,” the gaffer said through a hacking cough.

“Three or four for me, should be,” said his number two.

The mood was subdued as the game got underway, no shouts could be heard. At the bar, a glass shattered on the floor.

From behind, a voice asked: “Want to buy these premium steaks?” Absolute bargain.”

When Iran’s keeper went down in a nasty-looking collision with his own defender the room stirred.

“Lazy b******” one of the builders muttered, as a swarm of more than 20 school kids piled into the back during their lunch break.

When Jude Bellingham found the net with a sumptuous header, the crowd stared in disbelief before a chorus of isolated “c’mons” echoed around the room.

When local-ish lad Bukayo Saka netted the second with a thumping effort from just inside the box, the school kids went wild.

Vapes were pulled out, chairs were rocked, the back of the room making up for its quieter neighbours closer to the screen.

Saka made it three before the end of the first half setting the kids at the back into full flow, their energy picking up the rest of the lunchtime crowd – for a moment, this actually felt like the World Cup.

But at half time all promise faded.

The builders, their lunch break stretched as much as they could get away with, trudged out and shortly after the school kids left en-masse. It's unclear whether they’d been given the boot or if double maths was about to start.

The second half was a more dreary affair, the game won, England’s domination was punctuated with moments of Iranian defiance, including a glorious strike from Mehdi Taremi in the 65th minute.

The room reflected it, and despite a general murmur, it was clear most people were paying a lot more attention to their Carlings than they were to the goal-fest playing out on the screens above them.

But England were still winning, and despite all the horrors and global concerns surrounding the tournament, Gareth’s men had shown a genuinely ruthless streak.

Feeling buoyed by this, twice I tried to get a Beehive-wide rendition of It’s Coming Home going.

Twice I failed.

By the 80th minute, and with England 5-1 up, I was desperate to leave – the grey drizzle outside now a more appealing environment and when the final whistle went, I scurried out.

Stepping out into the rain I felt a bit glum. Turns out not even England bagging six in the opener of the greatest show on Earth can overcome a Spoons at 1pm on a Monday.

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