"I'd been bitten by the bug that was Italia 90", writes ITV News Meridian's Sarah Gomme

PA-12465090721-itala 90-Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS Sport
Italia 90: England's Terry Butcher, Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley and Paul Gascoigne line up before the kick-off. Credit: Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS Sport

Ahead of Sunday's match ITV News Meridian's sports reporter Sarah Gomme reminisces about her own England journey

I clearly recall one hot July day in 1990 accompanying my mum to our local newsagent - and asking her if 'it was okay' for a girl to buy  a copy of 'Shoot' - the 90s weekly magazine for all things football.

You'll be pleased to know she said yes.

Just days later I'd subscribed to both Shoot and Match magazine - both landing on the doormat every Wednesday morning.I'd been bitten by the bug that was Italia 90.

Intoxicated by Nessun Dorma, Gascoigne's tears, Roger Milla's celebratory wiggle, the John Barnes rap and those balmy evening shots of the San Siro.

Quite what had drawn me in initially I can't recall. The main TV at home - for that fortnight at least, was Mum's domain - it was tennis from Wimbledon and little else.

England's Paul Gascoigne skips past Netherlands' Ronald Koeman. Credit: Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS Sport

Thankfully though, Dad had splashed out on a small second set for the kitchen - via Radio Rentals of course. And it was there, where I sat transfixed by the opening game - Argentina v Cameroon.

On the night of England's semi final defeat to Germany I shed secret tears in the bathroom. And faced a cruel to be kind dressing down from Dad - who warned me to expect more of the same. What I didn't appreciate at the time was he was frustrated too - whilst also steeling me for future disappointment.

Ultimately my young heart had been broken - but I craved more.

The fascination didn't wane - I recall goosebumps attending my first match at Wembley. The old stadium - like a fortress - reminiscent of castles I'd studied at school and replicated in cardboard at home. It simply lacked a moat and drawbridge.

Post Euro 96' - when I was lucky enough to attend the now iconic Holland match - this relationship with England is a little blurred. Not least because I watched most matches in smoke-filled student bars or rowdy big screen venues reporting for local media. But in the main because what unfolded was to become a familiar pattern of hopes dashed.

"Gareth Southgate: An individual shaped, and not setback, by crushing defeats." Credit: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/DPA/PA Images

And it's not until now this relationship with the national side becomes clear again - the skies above the stadia a little brighter. This must largely be down to one man - England manager Gareth Southgate.  An individual shaped, and not setback, by crushing defeats.

And a boss whose pre and post match chat is devoid of cliches.

It is instead laden with compassion, kindness and humility.

Whatever happens on Sunday - that alone must be something worth celebrating.