Gareth Southgate has spoken of his pride in his country’s history, and his squad’s role in driving “tolerance and inclusion” in modern England as he rallied fans across the nation who are preparing for the Euro 2020 final.
As the England manager readies himself for his team’s own place in history, he said he wanted his players to help do “positive things that we could help to change or influence in society”.
An expectant nation is set to spend millions of pounds today readying itself for Sunday’s showdown with Italy at Wembley for the chance to be crowned champions of Europe.
Supermarkets are preparing for a sales bonanza as Britons get set for the biggest football match since 1966, for which there is likely to be a record TV audience.
It is predicted England fans will fans will buy millions of pints on Sunday, take out hundreds of million of pounds out in cash – and some are even changing their names of their streets to show their backing for the Three Lions.
Southgate’s England team has been hailed for its social conscience which has seen squad members saluted for taking the knee against racism, making a stand on donating to the NHS, and taking the fight for free school means to Downing Street.
But as well as acknowledging a forward-looking nation, Southgate – whose grandfather saw service in the Second World War – is keen to hail its history and values.
He said: “For an island our size we’ve got an incredible influence on the world and we’ve got to keep that in a positive way. There are historic things that we should be proud of.
“At heart I go back to the values that my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated. Just respectful, really.
“We have so many things here that we should be proud of that we probably underestimate that.”
He added that “there are positive things that we could help to change or influence in society”.
He said: “The longer I’ve been in the role the more I’ve understood the importance for our fans of that connection with the team.
“They felt part of it and that inclusivity is really important to us because I think that’s what modern England is.
“We know it hasn’t always been the case and there’s historic reasons for that, but that level of tolerance and inclusion is what we have to be about moving forward.”
Ending with a victory at Wembley would mark the men’s football team’s first major tournament win since the famous 1966 World Cup, also at Wembley.
England skipper Harry Kane also acknowledged the strength of public feeling that was behind the team and national excitement that has built throughout the tournament.
“They’ll all be cheering us on around the country and we just can’t wait to hopefully try to win the game for them,” he said.
Over the weekend, an estimated £750 million is expected to be withdrawn from cash machines – an increase of 12% compared with the same period a year earlier, according to ATM network Link.
And the British Beer & Pub Association predicts England fans will buy 7.1 million pints on Sunday and employers have been urged to be flexible on Monday morning to help sore heads recover.
By the end of the competition, it is estimated that £815 million will have been spent in pubs and hospitality venues, with 32.6 million pints sold, a report by Vouchercodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said.
Flag makers have been working “through the night” following the squad’s 2-1 semi-final victory over Denmark to keep up with the surging demand for England-themed paraphernalia.
And residents on Wales Street, in Oldham Greater Manchester, renamed their road England Street, erecting a new red-and-white sign above the original.
In response to the anticipated celebrations or commiserations, employers and school heads are considering allowing staff and pupils, respectively, to enjoy a lie-in the morning after the game. A number of schools have already said they will allow pupils to start later on Monday if they want to.
The final is due to kick off at 8pm and will finish by 10pm if it ends in normal time.
However, if it goes to extra time or a penalty shootout, the game would conclude closer to 11pm.