Dear Gareth Southgate and the boys,
We need to thank you. All of us.
From the reserved front-room fist-clenchers to the Boxpark pint-throwers.
Everyone from Land’s End to the Scottish border is love-drunk.
And it’s all because of you.
Strangers are hugging each other, toddlers are singing ‘Three Lions’, grandparents are dancing on tables, and we’re all buying waistcoats.
Club loyalties have given away to an epic collective will.
Liverpool fans are singing Jordan Pickford’s praises, Leeds fans are applauding Jesse Lingard’s efforts, and Arsenal fans are celebrating Harry Kane’s goals.
You’ve united a nation and inspired a generation.
You’ve given us a last-gasp winner.
You’ve given us a six-goal exhibition.
You’ve even given us a penalty shootout victory.
Eric Dier, you have no idea what you did when your strike nestled in the bottom corner of David Ospina’s goal.
That’s the moment ‘It’s coming home’ went from a widespread in-joke to a purposeful movement.
Scoring that penalty, with the ghosts of Waddle, Pearce, Ince, Batty, Gerrard, Lampard and Carragher breathing down your neck, earned you eternal appreciation.
One-by-one you’ve exorcised our World Cup demons.
We always lose on penalties, we don’t play as a team, we’re always tired.
Not this England, not your England.
Every Harry Maguire header fuels our belief, every Kieran Trippier cross, every Pickford save.
Despite the nerve-shredding nature of it all, you’ve somehow made it fun as well.
You’ll be pleased to know the acoustics of a pub garden are perfect for the Soutgate remix of Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’.
On game days, the country becomes one vast vintage sale.
Shirts from ’66, ’82, Italia ’90, Euro ’96, ’98, ’02, ’06, originals, fakes, reprints, you name it.
Every single one of the players is a favourite to someone and, despite what some would have you believe, you are all heroes.
There’s two games still to play of course.
Pressure is inevitable in such situations, but just know none of it is being applied from us at home.
Whatever happens from here on out, you’ve done our country proud.
The World Cup trophy may not be coming home necessarily, but football most definitely is.
In fact, it already has.
Sincerely yours, us back home.