England players’ families pay pen emotional letters ahead of final
We're not crying, you are
On the eve of England heading to their first-ever European Championship final and the first final full-stop since 1966, the gravity of this occasion cannot be overlooked. Whatever happens tomorrow night, this team has done us so proud already, not just in this tournament but in 2018 too.
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) July 10, 2021
All that being said, ahead of the historic game, The Telegraph put together a list of the England players' friends, family and former coaches paying some of the most heartwarming and utterly tear-jerking tributes you'll ever read.
It's not just about wishing them good luck for tomorrow, it's about realising that these were all young lads that grew up just loving football and grafting hard to make both their dreams and ours a reality.
Here are a few excerpts from the series of letters. We're being serious when we say get the tissues at the ready.
Kate Kane, Harry's wife
H, you know I’m not one to cry too easily but I found myself in tears when I started writing down how proud you’re making us all and what you’re doing for the country.
I used to laugh at you when we started going out and you’d be round mine playing penalties with my brother Tom and Seamus the dog, and you’d say you would be England captain one day. But that’s you - you set yourself a goal and you achieve it and you always said you were going to the Euros to get to the final.
Us too, Kate, us too. Captain Kane might have taken a minute to get going in this tournament, but we always knew he would and now he has, it looks like there's no stopping him. He's lead the line in two back-to-back semi-final reaching squads and always lead by example. The Golden Boot is inches away but what matters most is leading that team as you've always done.
Sheldon Edwards, Raheem Sterling's close friend and hairdresser
You always said you were going to do it - and you've done it. From growing up in Wembley and coming up to achieve your goals. You always said you were going to score goals at Wembley and you did.
You inspire me, you inspire the nation, you inspire the globe. Keep being you, humble, the people's people. You and the team - make it happen. Bring it home. Let's do it!
Raz has been, undoubtedly, the player of the tournament and we know how special it must be to inspiring the nation under the arch he grew up under. He's been targeted by the press at every turn but he's always done his talking on the pitch and proved himself to be an outstanding person off it too. We'll never have a bad word said about him again.
Melanie Maynard, Marcus Rashford's mother
If there was a ball at Marcus' feet, there was always a smile on his face. A smile that can light up any room. When we had very little and times were tough at home, he found comfort in that ball. It is one of the most consistent things he’s ever had in his life. His escape.
I can’t think of a better feeling than seeing your child’s dreams come true. Pulling on that England shirt is met with endless pride and moments shared over this summer will be cherished forever.
Communities have come together with a shared goal of bringing this home and it’s amazing to see a representation of all communities reflected in this squad.
Marcus' recurring injury problems may not have been allowed him to have the same impact this tournament as he usually does for England, but we don't need reminding how wonderful a human being this man is and how much he has done for this country. An MBE who silenced the government and continues to be one of several shining leaders in this team.
Zoe and Alan Maguire, Harry’s mother and father
I think there will be one or two tears from us when you sing your heart out at the National Anthem. Just embrace the occasion and enjoy the day. We know you will.
It still feels like yesterday when you Joe, Laurence and Daisy ruined our back garden by continuously playing football from morning till night. You will remember us having to constantly call you in from Mosborough fields as darkness fell with you saying, “in a minute Mum, next goal is the winner!”
And, of course, all those freezing cold Sunday mornings travelling the country as you played junior football. It was all worth it - every single minute.
We were proud back then. Words can’t describe how we all feel now.
We know how difficult a period Harry went through over the past year or so. It's remarkable how both he and John Stones have fought their way back all season, through off-pitch struggles, injury and a ridiculous amount of minutes to lead that defence to concede just one goal in seven matches. We love you, 'Slabhead' - we love all of you.
Claire Foden, Phil's mother
We tied a ball to Phil’s pram when he was 10 months old so he was kicking a ball as soon as he was walking. When we lived on Grenville Street in Edgeley in Stockport, we had a football net the size of a three-seater sofa behind the settee in the living room and he’d be playing constantly. You’d even hear him doing kick-ups in the shower.
Every time Phil came home from school he’d be asking, ‘Have I got football tonight?’. He’d be gutted if he didn’t. It’s been his life since he was five.
It’s crazy, surreal, to think where that little boy now is. You wouldn’t believe how proud your dad and I are of you mate. We love you, son.
As an SK boy myself, this fully ruined me. The 'Stockport Iniesta' has lit European football on fire this season and although it may have been tight for competition in his spot on the pitch, we all know what a talent this boy is. From the moment he hit the post in the opening moments against Croatia, it reminded us of how fearless these young players are - they've been a delight to watch.
Once again, you can read the full list of letters here and we urge you desperately to do so: as much as know how good this team is, who knows how long it'll be until we see a night like this again? Soak it in, remember every second and be immensely proud of what Gareth Southgate and his entire team and staff have done for this nation.
One last game, lads. Let's bring it home.