Sadness and pride: Our England Story

By Simon O'Rourke, Sport Correspondent

It's OK to feel sad today. I'm sad. I'm devastated actually. I don't think a football result has ever hit me like this one. But it's ok to feel like this because it shows it's all meant something.

Failing at the very end doesn't make the whole endeavour a failure. Far from it. England's Euro 2020 campaign has united the nation and given us hope, joy and an enormous shared experience at a moment when we really needed it. 

This England team and this England manager have been fresh, humble and likeable. Above and beyond that it's also a team near the start of its cycle, not the end, and that's tremendously exciting. They've felt like the best of us. The best England.

But if they're the best of us, we must also acknowledge the continued existence of the worst of us. The behaviour of some before the match was needless and depressing. The behaviour, both online and on the streets, after the match and the racist abuse directed at England players, was disgraceful. 

Let's not let the story be about that though. Let's raise a glass (actually, this morning, perhaps a strong cup of coffee is a better idea) to this England Squad. In the North East, we've followed "our" guys closely. So let's examine where they stand at the end of this road.

All eyes were on Jordan Pickford until the final whistle blew Credit: PA

Jordan Pickford was so nearly the hero. He was desperately unlucky to concede the goal and he saved two penalties in the shoot out. Zoom out a little and we've seen the boy become a man at this tournament. He's older, wiser and, above all, a little calmer. Washington's finest leaves the Euro Stage with the golden gloves award and any doubt about his status as England's Number One has been completely removed.

Jordan Henderson achieved his first goal for England during the tournament Credit: PA

Jordan Henderson is the squad's designated adult and kindly older brother. He's the calming presence the manager calls for when things get tense. He's the bloke who does Bukayo Saka's tie for him in that video where the squad try on their suits. He arrived at the tournament just barely recovered from injury and that's understandably limited his contribution on the pitch. But he surely departs with his reputation enhanced, simply for being such a solid bloke.

Graeme Jones, a coach at Newcastle United, was called up by Southgate to join his team Credit: PA

Graeme Jones was called up to be part of the England coaching team this summer and he's clearly made an important contribution. It's a nice line for his CV and Newcastle United Fans can only hope that he brings some of England's joie de vivre back with him when he returns to his day job on Tyneside.

Former Boro boss Gareth Southgate led the Three Lions to the Euro 2020 finals Credit: PA

And then there's Gareth Southgate. Lovely Gareth. He did the right things. He said the right things. He wants the right things. He's a statesman, tactician and trusted friend, all rolled into one. Nobody, not even Gareth, is perfect, and if the final itself slightly got away from him, then let's trust he'll learn from the experience. But, in the words of the song, Southgate, you're the one.

And now it's all over and our final wounds will take time to heal. Football didn't come home. Or did it? Have we missed the point here? Didn't football come home to all of us, in our pubs and our living rooms? Didn't we remember how the game can unify us like almost nothing else? Didn't we all have fun, even if we're sad today? England's Euro adventure was better than we could have hoped for and very nearly perfect. So, it's ok to feel sad today. But feel proud as well.