Robert Largan Column: England’s young Lions helped to bring the country together

I was born in 1987 so I was too young to remember Italia 90 and the semi-final defeat on penalties to West Germany.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 10:00 am

But losing on penalties in the semi-final at Euro 96 (to the Germans again) is seared in my memory and my first real taste of England heartbreak.

It set a pattern of despair of getting our hopes up every other summer, only to have them predictably and inevitably dashed.

In 1998, we went through the agony of David Beckham being sent off before losing on penalties (again) to Argentina. In 2002, we were beaten by a combination of a talented Brazilian side and David Seaman getting caught too far off his line.

Robert Largan, High Peak MP.
Robert Largan, High Peak MP.

In 2004 and 2006, we lost to Portugal on penalties (yet again) after being deprived of Wayne Rooney on both occasions, firstly through injury and secondly through a Ronaldo-induced red card. In 2012, it was the Italians who beat us on penalties (again) in the quarter-finals.

And, of course, on Sunday night we endured heartbreak yet again as we lost the final on penalties (of course) to a very good Italy side. It’s fair to say that it isn’t easy being an England fan.

But putting aside the result on Sunday, Gareth Southgate’s England squad have done something very special and I don’t just mean finally beating Germany and getting to our first final since 1966.They’ve conducted themselves with dignity, humility and courage. They’ve worked incredibly hard and set a fantastic example as true role models, which I’m sure will inspire many young people.

More than that, they have brought joy and helped bring the country together. After the year we’ve all had, it was exactly what we needed! The whole country is proud of them. It’s been a wild ride and an amazing tournament. They’ve let us dream again. Even if just for a few days.

On Sunday night we endured heartbreak yet again as we lost the final on penalties (of course) to a very good Italy side. It’s fair to say that it isn’t easy being an England fan, says Robert Largan.

I’m aware that some people have hurled racist abuse at players or tried to make pathetic political points. Frankly, they should take a long hard look at themselves. Thankfully, they are a tiny minority of unpleasant bores.

The rest of us are fully behind our players, who have done us proud. I’m looking forward to next year’s World Cup.

55 years of hurt. Never stopped me dreaming.