I had been fully aware of the 1994 World Cup in America, but my footballing obsession hadn’t truly blossomed.
My only clear memory is of watching an Italian man called Gianluca Pagliuca being lobbed by an Irish man called Ray Houghton, who I’d later learn was actually from Glasgow.
But from the moment England and Switzerland kicked off at Wembley two years later I knew these showcase summer events were something special.
I marvelled at Davor Suker’s audacity in chipping Peter Schmeichel – a titan whom I resented for being both very good – and a Manchester United player was reduced to a punchline by a player I’d previously never heard of.
Then there was the underdog Czech team who made it all the way to the final despite not having a single elite European star in their side. This is what made these tournaments so fun – finding myself attached to these exciting and entertaining unknowns.
Regrettably, this excitement became significantly dulled by the time the 2010s came around.
In my mid-20s, desperate to break into a career in football writing, I inhaled football. Champions League Uefa Cup, lower league English guff; you name it, I probably watched it.
The downside was that when it came to the big tournaments there were no surprises left to discover. Football was a global game being shown on television every night of the week. It was, and still is, oversaturated.
My own habits have changed in recent years.
Since moving into a full-time role as a football writer for Scotsman.com, coupled with the success of The Terrace Podcast and subsequent TV show on the BBC, I started watching significantly less football that doesn’t involve a team from the SPFL.
Coming home after spending eight hours a day thinking about nothing else, l wanted a different distraction. There just weren’t enough hours in the day for me to continue caring about who Real Madrid or Juventus were playing.
So, coming into this tournament, I feel like a kid again. For the first time in many years I’m looking at every nation’s projected starting XIs and the majority are guys I’ve never encountered before. The excitement of the unknown is back.