Unbridled joy - what Sheffield fans felt as England made it through to their first men's Euros final in history
Football fans gathered in pubs and bars across Sheffield last night to watch the most important men’s England match in 25 years.
England faced off against Denmark for a chance to take on Italy in the Euro 2020 final, and at Blend Kitchen, the pre-game atmosphere was one of excitement and apprehension.
I had been at the Stag’s Head much earlier in the day, and staff there were anticipating a full house by 4PM, despite the wet conditions.
It seemed unlikely that there would be many empty seats across the Sheffield venues that were screening the match.
At Blend Kitchen, the place was packed out, and groups of fans hurriedly ordered drinks and food before kick-off.
The game began and England seemed to be the stronger team for the first ten minutes, but they quickly started to give away chances, and it seemed only a matter of time until Denmark took advantage.
When Damsgaard scored in the 30th minute, ending England’s run of clean sheets and putting them on the back foot, there were groans throughout the bar.
There was a feeling that England needed to equalise before half time, and when Saka’s cross led to a Danish own goal in the 39th minute, there was renewed cheering and chanting.
Confidence was restored but going into the second half, it felt like it was anybody’s game.
Sheffield’s Harry Maguire was given a yellow card for catching Kjaer with an outstretched arm. Both he and fans from his hometown were furious with the decision.
Through much of the second half, the bar became eerily quiet as England found themselves a lot of opportunities but failed to make anything of them.
When the television in the bar gave a warning that it would switch off after one minute, you’d think England had conceded again, as those watching bellowed for help.
Fortunately, order was restored when a member of staff pressed a button on the remote, and was met by a cacophony of cheers.
After 90 minutes plus 6 minutes injury time it was still 1-1, and everyone in the bar braced themselves for extra time.
Kane was awarded a dubious penalty in the 104th minute and, as he stepped up to take it, no-one made a sound.
His penalty was weak and bounced out of Schmeichel’s hands, to a string of gasps in the bar, but Kane quickly tapped the ball into the net.
The bar lit up, chants of “it’s coming home” and “Southgate you’re the one” drowned out all else, with only 15 minutes left to play.
When, blissfully, the final whistle blew, signalling that England had made it to their first men’s international football tournament final since 1966, the fans let loose.
Outside the bar, cars beeped their horns incessantly, Three Lions blared from every taxi, and a jubilant fan slapped me on the bottom.
It really did feel like maybe, this time, football was coming home.
England will take on Italy on Sunday at 8PM, and if they win, every bar in Sheffield will be filled with the sounds of fans who, after 55 years of waiting, have once again tasted victory.