THE champagne was on ice at stadium:mk, but in the end it was drunk in consolation rather than celebration as England’s World Cup 2018 dream turned into more of a nightmare.
The country held its breath in hope and members of the Milton Keynes bid team joined leading city figures to watch FIFA’s announcement - but in the end they left disappointment as Russia was chosen to host the tournament in eight years.
But while the inquest into what went wrong and who was to blame for England’s failure will continue at least on a national level for weeks to come, a bit closer to home Milton Keynes is able to toast a job well done, and everyone involved with the city’s bid can hold their heads high with pride.
To say it had been a difficult few weeks in the build-up to Thursday’s vote would be putting it mildly, but there was still plenty of optimism at stadium:mk. However, after a delay in Zurich the news that England had received just two of 22 votes broke and FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s announcement only confirmed what most already knew.
And the day’s disappointment was summed up on a freezing afternoon when a firework display - set up in hope of celebration - accidentally went off anyway, leaving the couple of hundred or so present staring blankly at the smoke billowing from the stands, while feeling thoroughly depressed in an awkward state of silence.
The champagne had been poured as guest planned to drink to England’s success, but few stuck around as the sun set over the city, and on the chances of the country hosting the World Cup in the foreseeable future - the earliest football could come home is now 2026.
But after the dust had settled on the country’s disappointment, Milton Keynes was probably the only place in England where you would have found a wry smile.
Dons chairman Pete Winkelman summed up the mood perfectly when he said: “I can’t pretend I’m not really disappointed but we fought a good campaign, and it’s a bit like going out on penalties again.”