So this is what it feels like
Is this really happening?
All feels a bit surreal, this. Many of us have experienced finals and success with our club teams. But success with England at a major tournament? That was quite literally unimaginable.
We were teased in 2018. The World Cup felt special as we England fans experienced something we hadn't since 1996 - genuine success at a major tournament - and something we had never felt before - a penalty shootout win at a World Cup.
But still we fell at the final hurdle, falling short of staying at a tournament for its entirety. The semi final hoodoo remained.
We wondered when we would next get such a golden opportunity to reach a final, and for everyone under the age of 60, we continued to wonder what it would feel like for England to actually be in a final. We wondered whether we would ever see the day.
The overriding emotion for me? Shock.
I watched the Denmark game with mates, and I'll be honest, it felt like I celebrated more after we beat Germany. That was an outpouring of joy. After Denmark, it was an outpouring of relief, and huge dose of amazement.
For one of the first times in my life I was genuinely lost for words, because this was an event beyond my comprehension. I couldn't compute the magnitude of the achievement.
The other emotion that sticks out is stress. This has been an immensely stressful month. With the exception of the Ukraine game, of course.
— England (@England) July 11, 2021
If I think about the stand-out England moments from my life, they're generally not happy ones.
My first England memory is watching Ronaldo score the decisive penalty for Portugal in the shootout at the World Cup in 2006. The next one that sticks out is watching us lose 3-2 at home to Croatia and fail to make it to Euro 2008. This is followed by Robert Green's mistake against the USA in 2010, the 0-0 draw with Algeria, and then the disaster in Bloemfontein ft. Lampard's ghost goal.
Moving on to 2012 it was penalty heartbreak against Italy and the Pirlo Panenka. And then the less said about 2014 the better.
2016 gave me one of my favourite memories in the form of Sturridge's goal against Wales, but every single other memory of that tournament fills me with dread.
So what a joy the past three years have been.
My question is this though: Do fans of other nations get this stressed? Germans, Spaniards, the French, Italians. Are they as consumed by these emotions as we are? Or could it be that the 55 years of hurt weigh so heavy on our shoulders that every emotion is exacerbated?
Because this is just exhausting, I'm not sure my heart could cope with this every two years.
As the clock ticks and the hours pass, as the final gets closer and closer, I'm still pretty stunned and bemused. Just like reaching the final, I can't even begin to imagine what it will feel like for England to win a tournament. I mean, as a Villa fan, I can't even imagine what it feels like for a team I support to win a tournament.
Perhaps that is the beauty this time. No matter whether you're United or City, North or South, Premier League or Vanarama National League, this time we're all in the same boat. This matters equally to all of us.
This time we're all going through the same emotions. We're all experiencing that feeling that we're witnessing a once-in-a-generation moment. None of us are taking any of this success for granted, none of us are numb to success when it comes to the international stage.
England fans in Leicester Square now 🏴🏴🏴🏴 pic.twitter.com/DG6EWllzsj
— Football Away Days (@footyawayday) July 11, 2021
I would say enjoy it. But it's nigh on impossible to do that.
The enjoyment and celebration comes after - hopefully. These matches are very rarely enjoyable affairs. Anyone who says they had fun during those 120 long minutes against Denmark is lying. I know I didn't. It was exhausting.
We'll all remember it though. Where we were, who were with.
But whatever happens, it's been amazing to experience being in a final. The build-up, the conversations, the fact that it's all anyone can talk about.
No matter what happens at Wembley on Sunday, Southgate and his team have given us an experience that no one in this country has had in 55 years.
Imagine if they could give us one more...