WHEN England lifted the gleaming Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, manager Sir Alf Ramsey, in typical dour style, insisted the celebrations were muted.
Hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst woke up the next day and mowed the lawn.
Gareth Southgate after missing his penalty at Euro 1996Credit: Getty
The England manager celebrates the Three Lions making it to Euro 2020 finalCredit: Getty
In their moment of triumph, they were not to know that we would all endure another astonishing 55 years of seemingly never-ending hurt.
And when Gareth Southgate’s men took to the famous Wembley turf last night after 29 days of a glorious Euros campaign, it seemed as though the curse would finally be lifted. It was not to be.
Once again, penalties were missed and tears flowed. The search for glory and redemption goes on.
But having got as close as this, it feels worse than ever.
Long-suffering fans who have endured flops, failure, hard-luck stories and error-strewn performances since 1966, were denied the sight of captain Harry Kane lifting the Euro 2020 trophy.
Our unwanted history of disappointment, blunders, self-inflicted footballing wounds — and being robbed by the blatant cheating of others — began within just two years of that glorious triumph.
Through to the semi-finals of Euro 68, England only had to negotiate a path past Yugoslavia. But in an incident that was to repeat itself on three other occasions in a major tournament, key player Alan Mullery was sent off for violent conduct.
He later said: “They were doing all the dirty stuff, going over the top into tackles and the referee was diabolical.
“With one minute to go, Dobrivoje Trivic did me.
“I’d had enough of them injuring people so I kicked him in the b*******. I regret it now and it’s something I had to live with for the rest of my life.”
That feeling of being kicked in the naughty bits was to be a near-biannual event for 50 years.
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I can’t change 1996… but today we gave fans a day to remember
1970 World Cup: A dejected Bobby Moore sits on the grass as England are knocked outCredit: Offside
1982 World Cup: England’s Kevin Keegan looks downcast during the match against SpainCredit: Getty – Contributor
1986 World Cup: Ray Wilkins trudges back to the dressing room after being sent offCredit: Empics
1998 World Cup: David Beckham is sent off for kicking out at Diego Simeone
In the quarter-finals of the Mexico World Cup of 1970, England were 2-0 up and cruising but Bobby Charlton was controversially subbed to save his energy.
England lost 3-2 and Charlton said ruefully: “I felt I could run all day.”
Gary Lineker’s first memories of watching England came in that match.
He said: “Around that time, my dad had a card school with his mates once or twice a week at our house. Engelbert Humperdinck, a Leicester lad, was among the many who used to come round and play all night.
“The only thing that could ever stop that endless card game in its tracks was England.
“It has stayed with me how when England played West Germany in the quarter-finals of that tournament, everyone put their hands down — no matter what they were holding — turned around and focused on the telly. And then it was over, England had lost, and the men turned back around and my dad started dealing out cards again. Just like that.
“I was left heartbroken. But that moment started my journey as an England supporter.”
The defeat set the tone.
Over the next 20 years, England failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 World Cups and were bundled out of the 1982 tournament after successive goalless draws.
Defender Terry Butcher said: “We flew back with the wives and girlfriends, I got into my car and drove back to Ipswich. It’s when you get back home that it hits you.
“You feel like there’s something missing because you’ve been living this dream for five weeks. And it had come to nothing.”
2006 World Cup: Wayne Bridge consoles England teammate John Terry following defeatCredit: Getty
2014 World Cup: Roy Hodgson buries his head in his hands during the match against UruguayCredit: Darren Fletcher – The Sun
1990 World Cup: Paul Gascoigne celebrates after the quarter final match between England and CameroonCredit: Getty – Contributor
1986 World Cup: Diego Maradona scores for Argentina with his Hand of GodCredit: Bob Thomas Sports Photography – Getty
Diego Maradona’s infamous Hand of God denied England in 1986, the tournament when Ray Wilkins became the first to be sent off in a World Cup during an embarrassing 0-0 group draw against Morocco.
While redemption looked possible at Italia 90 as Bobby Robson’s side reached the semis, a match famous for Paul Gascoigne being reduced to tears, they lost on penalties to the Germans.
Lineker observed: “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
Never has a Sun newspaper headline captured the mood better than when England lost to Sweden as they were knocked out of Euro 92.
It read: “Swedes 2 Turnips 1”.
Manager Graham Taylor never quite recovered from the humiliation.
Current boss Southgate had tasted more semi-final torment when he missed the spot kick against Germany at Euro 96 that denied us another final place.
We crashed out of the 1998 World Cup on penalties two years later to Argentina after David Beckham was sent off. Effigies of him were hung from lampposts in the street. Sven Goran Eriksson’s England were beaten by a fluke Ronaldinho goal to crash out 2-1 to Brazil at a World Cup quarter-final in 2002.
We lost on penalties again to Portugal in a quarter-final at Euro 2004.
And the same country did us on penalties yet again in 2006 in Germany despite England holding on to a 0-0 draw in the quarter-final after Wayne Rooney was sent off — like Mullery, Beckham and Wilkins before him, another self-inflicted wound, and the fourth time in a major tournament England have had a red card.
Germany humiliated Fabio Copello’s Three Lions side with a 4-1 thrashing that knocked us out of the South Africa World Cup in 2010.
Italy knocked Roy Hodgson’s England out of Euro 2012 at the quarter-final stage — again on penalties.
Flop Hodgson’s side failed to qualify from the group at the 2014 World Cup before crashing out of Euro 2016 to soccer minnows Iceland.
It was truly England’s nadir.
As the Icelanders celebrated with their famous thunderclap, England fans in the stadium chanted in derision: “You’re not fit to wear the shirt.”
Gareth Southgate took over amid a muted fanfare — but within two years had built a confident, young team that got to within 22 minutes of a World Cup final in Moscow.
His lions lacked the steel to hold on to a lead against Croatia and lost 2-1. But this month saw belief growing not just among his team but the whole country.
Beating the Germans at Wembley saw the first part of the hoodoo laid to rest.
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s anthem Three Lions has been sung by glory-starved fans harder this summer than at any time since its released for Euro 96.
Songwriter Ian Broudie said: “It’s a plea. If your team loses, the tears are dripping into your pint as you cry, ‘It’s coming home’. If they win, you’re shouting, ‘It’s coming home’ from the back of a bus.”
Beating Italy would have had us cheering from the top deck. Instead, the Magical Misery Tour goes on. Next stop, Qatar 2022.
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