England.... Why it all feels so different this time

England's Harry Maguire celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game during the UEFA Euro

England's Harry Maguire celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game against Ukraine - Credit: PA

If, like me, you've watched numerous tournaments over the decades involving England, all ending with disappointment, failure and tears, it is hard to be super positive that we are going to win the Euros, even though quite frankly there is no reason why not.

England's win over Germany, followed by last night's over Ukraine weren't just impressive, they was statement-making.

Having beaten Germany, you could have forgiven Gareth Southgate for sticking with the same XI.

England's Harry Kane (centre) celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the UEFA

Harry Kane (centre) celebrates scoring the opener against Ukraine. It's Denmark up next for England. - Credit: PA

Why not? That team would surely have been good enough to win last night.

But such is the quality at his disposal, he can tweak his starting XI and it makes not a jot of difference, it's still so strong, so organised, so confident.

A possession-based game that, yes, can frustrate, but is in fact one that showcases his players' confidence, full of belief, full of talent. Taking their time, then striking.

All the players know their jobs, they all know their strengths.

England fans celebrate at the final whistle after the UEFA Euro 2020 Quarter Final match at the Stad

England fans celebrate at the final whistle last night. - Credit: PA

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Over the years many have wondered whether so many foreign players and coaches coming into the Premier League would stifle English players' progression. Well, that thought can be cast into the bin.

So many English players are playing in the best league in the world now, alongside some of the best players in the world and being mentored by some of the best managers and coaches in the world.

And our footballing nation is beginning to reap the rewards.

England's Raheem Sterling (left) and Ukraine's Mykola Shaparenko battle for the ball during the UEFA

England's Raheem Sterling (left) and Ukraine's Mykola Shaparenko battle for the ball. - Credit: PA

We can see how the like of John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling have benefitted under Pep Guardiola. How Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford have so improved alongside team-mates such as Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernades and Edinson Cavani.

Throw in the individual brilliance of Jack Grelish, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho among others - we haven't even mentioned Harry Kane - and Southgate is having to work overtime just to think of his best starting XI, if that is possible.

England manager Gareth Southgate applauds the fans after the UEFA Euro 2020 Quarter Final match at t

England manager Gareth Southgate applauds the fans after the win over Ukraine. - Credit: PA

The heady mix of brilliance that is Premier League football, as well as the extraordinary and hugely professional work off the pitch at St George's Park, and our national teams at all levels are shining.

Young players are identified, a structure is in place, it's all heading in the right direction not just in this tournament but has been in recent ones as well. There is no suggestion future tournaments shouldn't be just as exciting for England fans.

We've had 'golden generations' and high hopes before, but this feels so very different.

England's Kieran Trippier during a training session at St George's Park, Burton upon Trent. Picture

England's Kieran Trippier during a training session at St George's Park, Burton upon Trent. - Credit: PA

Of course Denmark will provide more stiff opposition just as Italy or Spain would in the final should England get there.

But, for once, let's not just do the 'English thing' and  enjoy the ride. Let's not just say, 'haven't we done well'. Let's be bullish.

Let's actually say, this time, football IS COMING HOME.
 

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