Sir Patrick Stewart has high hopes for England at the upcoming World Cup. Or at least higher than those of some prognosticators who have given the Three Lions little chance of progressing beyond the group stage.
“I would like to see them in the last eight,” the film, television and stage actor told Bleacher Report in a recent interview. “You can never predict what’s going to happen, but I’d be delighted if they’d get that far.”
England, of course, will be facing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in their first three matches at the Brazil competition, after which a round-of-16 showdown with one of Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast or Japan could beckon.
Stewart thinks they could win that, too, and perhaps even a quarter-final in either Fortaleza or Salvador.
“Once you get to that level the pressure gets so extreme that anything can happen,” he says. “But that’s my ambition for them at the moment.”
Born in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, Stewart first experienced football when he was taken to a match by his uncle in the late 1940s.
“We stood on open terraces—no seating in those days,” he recalls. “I remember walking over the top of the terrace, because you had to go right up to the top and then walk down. The thrill and excitement I felt, it never left me.”
He adds, “The very first time I went to Old Trafford two years ago [I experienced] the same feeling of absolute excitement and anticipation.”
A lifelong supporter of Huddersfield Town, Stewart likes to reminisce about Andy Booth—a forward who thrilled him with his runs down the middle of the park to get on the end of a through ball.
“His knees almost seemed to touch his chin when he ran!” he exclaims. “It was a thrilling sight.”
But even more than Booth’s 100-plus goals for Town, Stewart says he valued the player’s loyalty—a trait, he believes, that most people don’t understand.
“People ask me, ‘Why are you supporting a team that isn’t in the Premier League,’” he explains. “And I try to tell them that it’s not a case of fashion or geographic convenience. It’s to do with an inbred, almost tribal loyalty. And it’s not going to move anywhere else.”
Even so, there are other teams Stewart enjoys watching: Barcelona and Manchester City are two of them. But he was particularly enthralled with Liverpool’s 3-3 draw away to Crystal Palace on the penultimate day of the season—a match in which the Reds gave up three goals in nine minutes and all but conceded the title to Manchester City.
“You’re watching a game and it’s good and entertaining, and suddenly it takes a turn. And you realise what you’re watching is history being made out there,” he says. “That’s one of the great appeals to me. That’s why I have never in my life left a football match before the end. And I’ve never understood those loads of people who walk out to get the early bus. Because one of the great things about football is that it can be turned around in an instant.”
Stewart admits he doesn’t have the time he’d like to take in live matches (he didn’t even watch a single game at John Smith’s Stadium this season), although his wife, he says, has acquired “every football channel worldwide.”
The latest X-Men film, Days of Future Past, has commanded much of his schedule of late, and ahead of its May 23 opening he is due to attend the premiere in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Stewart, as aficionados of the X-Men franchise will know, plays Professor Charles Xavier in the films and says viewers can expect a “huge transformation” in his character.
“I also have to point this out because I’m very proud,” he beams. “At long last I’ve actually got my own superhero costume. I’ve had to watch Hugh Jackman and the rest of the X-Men taking off for their adventures in their costumes while I stayed behind in a suit and tie.
“Well that’s all changed, I’m glad to say!”
Stewart is also excited about the prospect of meeting some of Brazil’s World Cup squad while attending the Sao Paulo premiere, perhaps even manger Luiz Felipe Scolari—something he says would be a “fantastic treat.”
“First and foremost,” he says, “I’m a fan.”