DUFFERS' DIARIES: It wasn’t to be, but there remains plenty to be proud of
I’m writing this week’s column barely 12 hours after witnessing England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
It was a sickener, I must admit, and like any English football fan I’m gutted the team couldn’t get over the line because it really felt like the stars had aligned this year to make it happen.
The fact it didn’t can be analysed and argued about until the cows come home and had the clichéd ‘lottery’ of the penalty shoot-out gone the other way then none of the reasons being cited for the defeat would have mattered a jot.
Suffice to say I felt it was disappointing England couldn’t kick on after such a perfect start and great first-half and although I felt Italy were the most likely winners of the tournament after the first couple of games, they were there for the taking on this occasion and it seemed Gareth Southgate’s men froze when faced with the chance to go in for the kill.
Of course, great progress has been made under Southgate in the last few years and inevitably people will now look to the Qatar World Cup as being our next real chance of glory.
I’m not sure that will be the one – the heat out there will still be many countries’ biggest opponent irrespective of the time of year it’s being played – but maybe there will be a real desire from England to bury the demons of Sunday’s events ‘quickly’ given the relatively short space of time between the two tournaments.
On a more local level, a lot has been made of the journeys so many of those who took part at the Euros have made, not least players who have either hailed from, or plied their trade in, our neck of the woods.
Jordan Pickford was unlucky to be on the losing side after two fine saves in Sunday’s shoot-out, it seeming a long time now since his days turning out for Alfreton Town in 2013, while Harry Maguire is of course a former Chesterfield schoolboy who has shone once more on the big stage.
And with former Ilkeston star Che Adams also having featured for Scotland, it highlights again that like Pickford, Jamie Vardy before them and others, there are usually plenty of gems in the lower reaches of the game worth keeping an eye out for if you get to see your local non-league sides in action this season.