THE familiar pain of watching England in the World Cup was felt by fans across East Lancashire on Saturday as Roy Hodgson’s men lost 2-1 to Italy in their opening match.

Thousands crammed into pubs to watch the game, with a huge outdoor screen ensuring The Havelock Inn, in Mill Hill, Blackburn, was one of the busiest in the area.

An evening of drinking meant dozens of fans were in good voice before the 11pm kick-off, and the initial hope and expectation appeared justified when England, and in particular Raheem Sterling, started brightly.

Spirits were soon dampened by the brilliance of Marchisio’s opening goal, but The Havelock erupted with joy minutes later when Sturridge levelled for England.

This turned out to be the high point, and Italy regained the lead early in the second half through former Manchester City star Mario Balotelli.

Despite the defeat, TV installer Ayuub Patel, 30, of Winston Road, Blackburn, believes England can still do well. He said: “It was a really good atmosphere with the big screen and I enjoyed the match.

“When we scored we had the momentum. I think we’ve still got a chance to beat Uruguay and can go through.

“Rooney should have been played in the middle, where he’s at his best, because he hardly did anything.”

Call centre worker Claire Stevenson, 24, of Lilly Street, Darwen, said: “It was a good game and I enjoyed it, but I’m disappointed with the score. When Sturridge scored I thought we might win.”

Blackburn College lecturer Stacy Doherty, 30, of Maria Street, Darwen, said: “The big screen was really good and the atmosphere was sound.

“We played quite well and were in a good position to win it at one point. Sturridge was brilliant.”

Not everyone in East Lancashire was disappointed with the result. Italian nurse Carmine Accardo, 24, who works at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, said: “I was joking with my English neighbours before the game and it was a really good atmosphere in the town. I didn’t expect Italy to play with this organisation, so I really enjoyed it.”