Sussex remains so proud of Gareth Southgate and England - despite the curse of the penalty shoot-out

How proud we are of our England team - despite Euro 2020 defeat in the most dramatic of ways.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 11:46 pm

For those of us who have cheered them on from our armchairs for the past 55 wilderness years - the curse of the final penalty shoot-out has cast long shadows.

Here in Sussex the omens were so promising.

The mystic meerkats at Drusillas Park had backed our players throughout to win.

Gareth Southgate leads the team after the presentations
Gareth Southgate leads the team after the presentations

Meanwhile, after a stunning display over Goodwood and Chichester for the Festival of Speed on Sunday, the Red Arrows headed off for a pre-match Wembley fly past.

But if Italian professional tennis player Matteo Berrettini saw victory evaporate from him after a magnificent opening set in the Wimbledon gentlemen's finals hours earlier; his homeland was to savour the final triumph.

With an irony that was not lost on those glued to televised sport, it was England s turn to snatch an early advantage in the Euro final - with such speed and suddenness that some of us were still opening the cheese and onion crisps when the first goal was scored.

Sadly it could not be sustained.

The Italian equalizer led inevitably and inexorably to extra time and then the doom-laden penalties that extinguished the hopes of a nation in one final, fateful kick despite the very best and majestic efforts of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

No doubt, Sussex pubs were packed with supporters. I could not say. The NHS track and trace app had already confined me to the sitting room - a hallmark of a year marred and mired by pandemic.

Clearly I was not alone, nor in my inability to watch except through half closed eyes.

The websites of our newspapers across West and East Sussex show what stories people are reading and when.

As the final tension mounted, a growing number of residents decided to learn more about an old coastal Sussex church being sold at auction.

That was through no lack of patriotism but just the unbearable pain of the closing moments of a match on which we had all pinned hope over expectation.

Clearly there will be heated debates about the final England substitutions, the penalty tactics, and indeed the overly defensive play after the first goal was secured.

But England will be back - stronger and better than ever for the World Cup, under their superb Crawley-bred manager Gareth Southgate and with a well deserved and exemplary performance in the Euro final to their credit.