I spent my first 19 years in Northern Ireland and most of the next 30 on this side of the Irish Sea.

My travels have taken in five different parts of England and involved two years in Wales and almost three-and-a-half in Scotland, and one of the main discoveries for me was how different all four nations of the UK are.

It’s not just in their cultures and histories, but in their issues, aspirations and concerns. They really are “nations” and not just regions.

But there are similarities, too. One the three smaller Celtic nations share is a delight when England lose at sport.

The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have a tendency to support two teams – their own and whoever’s playing England.

That applies just as strongly among ardent Ulster unionists as anyone else. They’re happy to wave the Union Flag, sing God Save The Queen and proudly assert their Britishness – but if England are playing Western Samoa at netball, they’ll automatically support Western Samoa.

On my first night out with friends in Cardiff, England were playing Romania at football. The roars and cheers in one pub when Romania scored a goal were deafening and almost frightening.

Another night out in Dumfries, a few years later, coincided with an England versus France rugby match, which England won.

One cross, drunken Scot asked me where I was from, and seemed content when I told him I was from Belfast. The English friend I was with, fearful for his safety, assumed a Scottish accent and said he was from Stranraer. That’s why he’s alive today.

English people may resent this anti-Englishness and it’s not something I share. I’ve lived in England for more than 24 years after all, half of them in Cumbria, and most of my best friends are English.

But it’s understandable. An instinctive dislike of foreigners is behind a large part of Brexit sentiment. Scots disliking the English is no different from the English disliking the French. Scotland’s desire to leave the UK is no different from England’s desire to leave the EU.

There’s often annoyance among the UK’s smaller nations in how many English people equate “England” and “Britain” and ignore or overlook them.

Something similar exists in the Netherlands. The country gets called “Holland” and yet that is only the name of two of its provinces. Many people from the other provinces regard this as rude and ignorant. No doubt people from the smaller republics in the former Soviet Union also disliked being labelled “Russian”, whether or not they dared to say so.

I wanted England to win on Sunday night and was disappointed when they didn’t. Both teams seemed evenly matched and perhaps penalties were the only way to choose between them. But they must surely have as much to do with luck as skill.

Another reason to have hoped for an England victory is that we might have had a day off, as Boris Johnson hinted there could be an extra bank holiday to mark the occasion. We deserve more bank holidays anyway.

But politicians’ attempts to harness football for political ends are always embarrassing, as when David Cameron claimed to support Aston Villa but confused them with West Ham.

Ministers rushed to show what great football fans they were by donning England shirts, and looked daft.

In her hurry, Priti Patel omitted to iron out the creases from the packaging in hers, and Rishi Sunak’s still had the tags attached.

Another Tory MP, Lee Anderson was refusing to watch England’s games because the players were taking the knee at the start of each one.

He says it is a political gesture with which he disagrees. I’d like to hope he disagrees with racial hatred, too.

It’s only a game, but you can easily imagine the fuss if England had won. They would bang on about it forever.

It’s 55 years since 1966, but some English people seem to feel that because they won then, they’ve been entitled to win ever since, and it’s some grave injustice if they don’t.

If they’d brought home the trophy, we would have been hearing about it until 2076 at least.

England will enter next year’s World Cup singing how 56 years of hurt never stopped us dreaming. Many have said that this team are young and will improve with experience, and there could be many successes in the years to come.

So perhaps it’s time to forget 1966 and look forward.

It’s hard to do that if you’re staring in the rear-view mirror.