England banish Germany demons as haunted fans dream again after years of pain

This one was for Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and the late Sir Bobby Robson.

For that whole generation of supporters who felt nothing but pain when the word Germany came into a football conversation.

It was also for future fans, who will now grow up knowing we have a team capable of allowing us to dream with genuine belief that those dreams could come true.

But most of all, last night's historic night of redemption was for the man who masterminded it, in the shape of Gareth Southgate.

All those mentioned above saw their international careers defined by moments of glorious and epic failure at the hands of our biggest rivals.

But now Southgate can at least bury the ghosts that have haunted him for the last 25 years.

In the space of two mad and joyous hours at Wembley, England banished the demons of decades past on a night that felt like the greatest one since 1966.

This colossal stadium rocked to a rhythm made up of relief and the realisation that the Three Lions had airbrushed the tortures of 1990 and 1996 from a picture that had been too painful to look at.

This time it was the Germans who sank to their knees at the final whistle, while those white knights celebrated like never before.

"It's Coming Home" blared out from all corners of the stadium as Southgate and his entire staff hugged and embraced on the sidelines.

Up in the posh seats, David Beckham and David Seaman grinned from ear to ear. There was a lap of honour, a standing ovation. The players sang along to Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline'.

Boris Johnson took time out from dealing (badly) with the on-going pandemic to watch the drama unfold from his Downing Street flat – and took to social media to add his congratulations.

Even the media manager joined in the party. No-one wanted to leave the field. No-one wanted to go home, including Phi Foden's mum, who was in tears. And her son hadn't even played.

England had beaten Germany in a major tournament for the first time since 2000, but it felt more significant than just a new statistic.

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It felt like a nation had unburdened itself with a watershed moment.

For years England had carried around more German baggage with them than the Kardashians take on a weekend break.

That's the problem with history. It never lets you forget the past.

But now there will be some new history to look back on in years to come – and it will be memories to saviour instead of squirm at.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, but the one England served up here came from the deep freeze, because it had taken a quarter of a century to cook up.

But on the night it took less than 75 minutes for it to be rammed down the throats of the Germans, when Raheem Sterling ended the stalemate, torture and nervous suffering with the opening goal, before Harry Kane banged in a second to add some salt to the wounds on the menu for Joachim Low's men.

Southgate clenched his fist then stood there motionless. His hands returned to his pockets, unlike Prince William up in the royal box, who jumped up and raised both arms in the air.

He might be the future king of England, but in less than two weeks Southgate and his stars could well be the rulers of an entire continent.

Southgate had pleaded with his players to write their own stories – and they did. But the greatest one of all could still be to come.

England will now march on to Rome and the quarter finals, with either Sweden or the Ukraine waiting for them.

Should we overcome that less than daunting hurdle, Denmark or the Czech Republic will stand between England a place in the Final, at Wembley, in front of the delirious backing of home fans.

And the last time that happened, it turned out pretty damned well.

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