History beckons for Gareth Southgate’s England hopefuls in Euro 2020
Gareth Southgate’s men could make this the summer of a lifetime, with England among the favourites to win a competition that just five years ago witnessed one of the lowest moments in the national team’s history.
Nobody will forget the Three Lions’ last European Championship match, with minnows Iceland humiliating Roy Hodgson’s stuttering star-studded side in the round of 16.
If that Euro 2016 exit was not chastening enough, Hodgson’s successor Sam Allardyce was gone after just 67 days following the emergence of secretly-filmed video footage containing controversial remarks.
What has been dubbed ‘the impossible job’ certainly looked like a poisoned chalice for the next man, yet Southgate provided the foundations for the most exciting period in more than a decade.
The Under-21s boss’ promising stint in interim charge led him to get the role on a permanent basis, with his contract deservedly extended just months after the impressive run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.
From the last-gasp winner against Tunisia to Harry Kane’s Panama hat-trick, from the penalty shoot-out triumph over Colombia to the comfortable quarter-final victory against Sweden, it was an amazing ride in Russia.
Kieran Trippier even had England dreaming of going all the way with his stunning semi-final free-kick at the Luzhniki, only for Croatia’s guile and experience to break hearts in extra-time. There will forever be a nagging feeling of what might have been but steady progress since then, including bronze at the inaugural Nations League, has led belief to grow that this group can follow in the footsteps of the 1966 heroes.
And following one of the toughest years any of us have dealt with, England have the chance to lift a trophy on home soil just like Sir Alf Ramsey’s men.