The only thing certain about Sunday’s Euros final was that England would need to play out of their skins to get the better of an Italy side who had not lost in 33 games – an incredible record by any standards.
Before the competition had even got underway I had a feeling we would reach our first international final in 55 years. I was nine years old and I remember it well, watching it in black and white at my nan’s house.
Somehow with the positive and determined mood of the squad under Gareth Southgate and the progress which had already seen us reach the World Cup semi final in 2018, it just felt like taking another step forward was a case of when rather than if.
And we had achieved that whatever happened on Sunday, which may explain my inner calm, albeit with nagging reservations in the days leading up to the game. Maybe after the penalty disasters of 1990, 96 and 2004 and the Frank Lampard goal that wasn’t against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, the only expectation we had left ultimately was disappointment.
Sport, and football in particular, has the ability to enthral and infuriate in equal measure, but nothing pulls a country together like the national side doing well.
If we could just do that without it degenerating into nationalism we would all be winners.
It was now just a case of whether this was to be our time after more than five decades of hurt with our players claiming their own place in history.
120 minutes of torture followed by penalty heartbreak. That sums up England’s fate for the past 31 years so I suppose it had to come down to this in the end.
Deja vu for Gareth and for every England fan.
But so much to be proud of.
It used to be a case of just not being good enough.
Even with two jabs, I will not be abandoning my Wolverhampton Wanderers face mask from next Monday and I’m in no rush to get on an airplane anytime soon.
That’s not panic on my part, it’s just consideration for others, and I’m not especially concerned over the rise in COVID cases, which was always going to happen.
The aim, for those sensible enough to have been vaccinated anyway, is not necessarily to be immune from coronavirus, it’s to survive it if we catch it and without putting pressure on the NHS.
The intention is just not to die. Keeping the death rate down is the target, not eradicating the virus. That will probably take decades to achieve.
It’s too much to expect everyone to behave responsibly, but with annual booster shots and hopefully without a mutation that renders all our efforts ineffectual, for most of us COVID-19 should become a nasty flu rather than the killer that robbed us of family members and friends.
Dropped some weight, diabetes level way down, blood pressure vastly improved. And all it took was a pandemic-enforced lockdown.
If only I had known that earlier.
The shower scene in Sex/Life from this week’s Gogglebox.
Stupid TV quiz answers of the week
Q: Who founded the Leith School of Cookery in London during the 1970s?
A: Esther Blumenthal
Q: What does the B stand for in the abbreviation bhp?