Another four years of hurt. Another World Cup exit with no silverware. That’ll make 56 by the time England get to Qatar in 2022, but make no mistake, this time was different.
This time saw a country, stricken by the pain of several dismal tournaments, come together in unity unlike any seen in decades. A youthful exuberance and a manager with no ego made for the perfection concoction to reconnect a nation with it’s football team.
Amongst that whirlwind of reunification rose some unlikely heroes. Heroes from humble backgrounds that went a way to creating a relevant and relatable bond between these Premier League stars and the everyday fan.
The whole squad were excellent, but there were a specific few who not only excelled in their performance, but captured the imagination of the country.
Billy Cundall looks to the contenders for England’s player of the tournament in Russia.
Before the tournament, the whole country had their say on England’s number one spot, but Jordan Pickford has put an end to that debate.
After a decent showing in the group stages, he followed it up with penalty shoot-out heroics in the round of 16 against Colombia.
The young keeper followed up with a man of the match outing in the quarter-final against Sweden. The Everton stopper was the Three Lions’ ultimate last line of defence and produced a number of wonderful stops.
Pickford came up big in semi-final too, and can count himself unlucky if he misses out on the Golden Glove award.
The rock at the back, and in my opinion the biggest surprise to this current England setup.
Arriving with a bin-bag of his possessions when called up to the national squad last year, Harry Maguire has captured the hearts of the nation through his normality.
A throwback to a ‘classic English centre-half’, the Leicester defender came into the tournament as a fairly unknown entity, certainly to the international stage, but he left quite the opposite.
Solid defensive performances, a goal and a hell of a performance against Sweden saw Maguire become one of England’s first names on the team-sheet, and a real contender for the player of the tournament.
The ‘Bury Beckham’ - does anymore needed to be said?
If you didn’t know too much about this full-back before the summer, you do now. Kieran Trippier, the Tottenham wing-back forged the perfect debut tournament.
His consistent flow of fantastic deliveries topped off with a pearl of a free-kick goal in their last-four encounter sent the 27-year-old right to the top of the contenders for this accolade.
Quick, intelligent and fluid on the ball, Trippier was central to all that was good for the English.
The Spurs defender can take a lot of credit for his performances in Russia, and is a massive contender for England’s player of the tournament.
Number nine, captain, leader.
Harry Kane has come a long way since his loan days with Millwall and Norwich. Calm, articulate, and a real inspiration to England in the early stages of the tournament.
The Tottenham striker looks a certainty for the Golden Boot award, demonstrating his importance to this England setup.
His coolness over penalties and that 90th minute winner against Tunisia are real highlights of his time in Russia.
Unfortunately, a rare clear-cut chance miss in the semi left the Three Lions dreaming of what could have been, but it simply wasn’t to be.
Kane is a role model who is proud to be England captain, and in turn the country is proud to call him their leader.
So, who wins?
There’s not much that can be said to soothe the heartache felt after that semi-final defeat, but it is possible to draw some consolation from what the tournament brought.
A new dawn, a new era, and a new team that the country can be proud of. I cannot speak on behalf of the nation, but in my humble opinion the player of the tournament would have to be Harry Maguire.
The reason I say this is through a combination of just how impressive the 25-year-old was, but more so my personal sheer surprise at how good he actually is.
I had a preconception that the centre-half might be slightly lumbersome, but that was far from the case.
Coming into the tournament I must admit I had doubts about the defensive line; but Maguire’s aerial presence, calmness on the ball, and sheer determination to win as an England player has been inspirational.
His down to earth nature and unassuming personality, teamed with his Terry Butcher like commitment amalgamates to my opinion that the lad from Sheffield is England’s player of the tournament.