Two hours after the final whistle of the Euro 2022 opener and a man in a faded Footix jumper is waxing lyrical about the teams at the tournament, he yells over the music and we agree that Italy are the dark horses. Some 200 miles south, 30 matches and 24 days later and he’s clad in the current England home shirt, he blushes over his Italy prediction before yelling it’s the greatest night of his life.
An hour later, the man has been replaced by a group of WSL footballers, eyes glassy as they fumble around in the night air, heads still swimming with the images of 87 thousand fans in one stadium, all cheering for women’s football. The promise of tomorrow intermingling with so many fizzy pints.
After midnight, a man leans out of his hotel window to shout down to the drunk woman below, she giggles through an all too loud rendition of “Don’t Take Me Home” as the hotel go-er yells at her to shut the fuck up.
The other side of the McDonalds, a travelling Brummie borrows a power bank from a stranger, she’s new to football not having followed it before the Euros, she explains, stood in a blue England shirt, encouraging her phone back to life so she can book an Uber.
On the other side of London, a group of dedicated fans drink the night away, singing about no more years of hurt until the sun begins to rise, only stopping to remind you that Beth Mead’s on fire.
In this one night, the country may not be untied – any glance at the comment section would remind you of that – but for Britons everywhere, there is a sense of serenity, of a footballing glory that hadn’t been tasted for more than half a century, tears and beer flowing in equal measures.