Child's play: (Top row, from left): John Stones, Marcus Rashford, Kalvin Phillips, Tyrone Mings, Aaron Ramsdale, Phil Foden; (second row) Jack Grealish, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Ben White, Ben Chilwell; (third row) Sam Johnstone, Reece James, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho; (bottom row) Jordan Henderson, Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice, Conor Coady, Mason Mount, Harry Maguire.
As England’s 26-man squad prepare for the match of their lives in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, those who know and love them best – family members, partners, friends and mentors – offer one last good luck message.
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.
You’re just such an amazing husband and dad, and the children can’t wait to have you home. Imagine telling them all about this summer one day when they’re a bit older. We all love you so much, Skipper. Bring it home for the country, you deserve to lift that trophy with this incredible England team!
Harry Kane speaks to his wife Kate after the Denmark win
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Charlie Kane, Harry’s brother
I’ve been thinking about all the days when we used to lift our goal over the back garden fence into Ridgeway Park and play passing and shooting until it was dark. I wonder what the park keeper, who used to lock up and leave us there, thinks now?
You were a decent keeper when you were younger, but then made me go in goal so that you could practice your penalties.
We would all love to see you lift the trophy on Sunday but whatever happens to see you now captaining our country and scoring big goals makes me so proud.
Good luck H , love Char x
Sheldon Edwards, Raheem’s close friend and hairdresser at HD Cutz
Raheem, listen to me carefully. 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.
Sunday is a big day, bro. And you’re going to make it happen. It’s a big mission and I’ve got all confidence that you are going to make it happen.
From going back in the days, when I met you at the Usain Bolt premiere and I said to you: ‘You’re going to be my client’ and you said you’d come back to me. Look where we are today.
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!
Melanie Maynard, Marcus’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.
We lost tiles off the roof, vases went flying, school shoes got scuffed. All part of what has been the most fulfilling journey.
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.
Come on England. We’re all extremely proud.
Tracey Walker, Kyle’s mother
Hello son! We should have known you were going to be fast after we once lost you in a shop as a kid – you were running in and out of clothes and we had to corner you.
As for balls, you never put a football through a window but golf balls were a different matter.
We love you so much and are so very very proud.
Stephanie and Sean Rice, Declan’s mother and father
Son, we knew you were special very early on. You used to kick footballs in the snow barefoot aged three and we could never get you to come indoors.
Every summer holiday abroad you would be playing football from 8am to 10pm at night and even used to captain the waiters’ five-a-side team in the evenings, aged eight!
You have never stopped working so hard to fulfill your dream. We love you so much – you’ve made us so proud.
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.
He couldn’t take the register to the school office without having a screwed up piece of paper by his feet that he’d dribble down the corridor.
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.
Zoe and Alan Maguire, Harry’s mother and father
Well, Harry, the time has come – and whatever happens on Sunday we are all so proud of what you, the players and England staff have achieved over the past six weeks.
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.
As you know, the whole family will be there on Sunday to cheer you on. We know you will do your best.
Debbie and Tony Mount, Mason’s mother and father
Keep making the family and the country proud, Mason!
Seeing the reaction of that little girl when you gave her your shirt after the Denmark game is what it’s all about.
It’s been an amazing tournament, now make sure you bring it home!
👏 @masonmount_10 #Euro2020 | #ENG pic.twitter.com/C7tY1LZdjL
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 8, 2021
Kevin Grealish, Jack’s father
Jack – you always had a ball at your feet: even when you played Gaelic football you were always dribbling.
They used to say to you, “you’re supposed to pick it up, too” and you wouldn’t listen, you’d just keep running and going past people.
I can still picture you at four years old playing with the ball in the garden. You used to jump into the bushes and pretend it was the Holte End.
Even on holiday in Tenerife you never stopped playing. There was an entertainment manager, Rafa, who once got you up on the stage at the Ocean Palace hotel and told everyone: “This kid will play for England.”
You also know everything about football. When you were about six you’d come home from school and watch Villa on video and all the games under Big Ron [Atkinson].
I’d be lying if I said I knew you’d play for England because it’s all about development, but you were always a gifted lad.
The Saka family (parents Yomi and Nike, and Yomi, Bukayo’s brother)
Bukayo – this football journey started with kicking balloons in the house at the age of four, then moved to the back garden that almost became your second bedroom, and then to a local club called Greenford Celtic when you were seven.
You quickly worked your way up into the Watford development centre and then further trials at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea before choosing the Arsenal Academy in Walthamstow.
It is quite incredible to find you playing at senior international level with England at such a young age, only 19. It is testament to your determination, hard work and dedication. We are super proud of you and wish you continued success in your career, with club and country.
Go on and bring it home!
Matt Crocker, Luke’s academy manager at Southampton
Luke – we all remember the commitment you and your family made, and all those hours trekking up and down the M3 several times a week.
People talk up the influence of clubs and coaches but families, and all the years spent juggling everything, often gets left out. You’ve shown tremendous resilience. This is the reward.
And you’re now one of the iconic players we want others here to follow. We have a dressing room in the academy named after you, just next to the one of Gareth Bale. And, in it, it’s got a photo of your first Saints game as an under-eight and then making your debuts for Southampton and England. We’re all thrilled for you and very proud.
The Mings family (parents Dawn and Aidy, Cherrelle, Chloe, Iesha and Hope)
You were born at 4.45pm on a Saturday and your first word was ‘ball’ – it was always written in the stars!
From your biggest fans xxx
The Coady family (parents Gail and Andy, Harrison, Amie, and Henri, Freddie and Louie)
Conor – we can’t tell you how proud we are of all your achievements. We know you are living your absolute dream being selected for your country.
From your early days of playing for Rainford Rangers at the age of five to becoming the captain of Wolverhampton Wanderers and now being involved in one of the best tournaments in world football is just mind blowing – what a journey.
We know in whatever capacity you’re involved on Sunday you will continue to conduct yourself in the professional manner you always have and help your team-mates in any way you can
Good luck, Conor – let’s bring it home.
Glenn Johnstone, Sam’s father
Sam was a centre-half at first until someone shoved him in goals at nine. He loved it and within three months Manchester United had spotted him.
I remember Colin Fairhurst, a United scout, saw Sam at his local club Euxton Villa and didn’t even end up watching him in the game. He just watched the warm up and went, ‘I like the look of him’, ‘He hasn’t even played yet!’ I said. ‘I don’t care, I’ve seen enough’. One of the best things for me personally was when he went on loan to Preston North End because I’d been at the club as well as a goalkeeper and there were a couple of staff still there from my time. He had big shoes to fill!
Sam’s had the hard track. He’s had to fight his way through and do his time in the lower leagues but it’s toughened him up and been a great experience. Sam, we’re very proud.
Rachel Burgess, Dominic’s mother
We are just beyond proud of you, Dom. I worry I am going to cry again – I’ve already done a lot of that over the last few weeks! Your success is so well-deserved.
You’ve always been dedicated. You know – because I keep sending you snapshots of them – that I have kept all the notes you wrote as a little boy about becoming a footballer. Not just that but you kept a diary of what you wanted to eat and when you wanted to train.
You used to fib to me that football training started an hour earlier than it actually did just so you could get there early and practice on your own.
I would be racing home from work and you would be ringing me saying ‘Mum, where are you?’ Then we would get there in a rush and no-one had arrived yet!
Everything you have achieved in football you have worked so hard for. And what’s more, you’ve a lovely, kind-hearted young man.
The White family (parents Carole and Barry, Ben’s sister Elle and her partner Ronnie, and nephew Louis)
Ben, your strength through adversity throughout your younger years, when you overcame illness and rejection, was incredible and is testament to the man you are.
The experiences of having your appendix taken out at seven years old, and then being released from Southampton as a teenager, have helped to round you as a person, and helped you to find the strength to be where you are today and where you are going to be in the future. We are all so incredibly proud of you.
Wishing you and all the boys the very best of luck. Bring it home.
Lauren James, Reece’s sister
I’m proud of you Reece. I’ll never forget growing up and playing ball with you behind the house every day.
Go do your thing RGenie – much love!
Wayne Chilwell, father
I’m so proud of what you have achieved, whether it was a 12-year-old getting in the local team, or a 14-year-old in academy football, or now at 24, a senior England international. We have so many amazing memories of you as a footballer and also just a little boy doing the things you loved. When you were four years old you loved that song “Step in Time” from the original Mary Poppins movie and you would run and run around the sofa pretending you were Dick Van Dyke!
Dave Godley, Jadon’s academy coach at Watford
There were two scouts who ran the development centre at Battersea – Alex Cargill and Julian Roberts – who were absolutely fundamental in getting Jadon near the club in the first place.
I remember Alex telling me, ‘Look, this is a wonder kid, if you really want to get him loving Watford, you’ve got to get him into your Under-9s for a match’. The problem was Jadon was Under-7s at the time. He ended up missing the start of the game because he’d got held up and when he put on the kit it drowned him.
But he was beaming and, as soon as he was on, he started dribbling and he was smiling while he was doing it – he wasn’t at all phased about playing against bigger boys. His laces did keep coming undone though!
Ian Thackray, Phillips’ coach at Wortley Juniors FC, Leeds
In the early days you never got picked up by the academy of a professional club and I know why. They wanted lads who could run as fast as Linford Christie. That wasn’t you. You are more like Mo Farah. You can run and run and run.
It was an end of season tournament, 11-a-side and you weren’t due to play because you had been on holiday but you turned up to watch. We were really struggling with injuries and only had 11 players. The lads on the touchline were saying to me and Paul Hatfield who coached the team ‘Kalvin’s here – put him on!’ But we had submitted all the eligible players at the start. Then we went down to 10 and the organisers said, ‘Ok you can bring him on’. You didn’t have any kit or boots with you so you had to get them off the lad who you replaced. You gave him your tracksuit!
Within a few minutes you tackled a lad in the way that you do and you did it pretty much to perfection. You slid in, got up and did a Cruyff turn. Then you hit a ball out to our full-back on the touchline. The Leeds United scout Sonny Sweeney was just walking past the pitch at that moment and he said to me ‘Who’s that, then?’ I told him your name and said that so many clubs from West Yorkshire and beyond had looked at you but no-one had taken you.
The next day he called and asked for your mum’s number and off you went to Thorp Arch for a six-week trial. Leeds didn’t need that long. After about three weeks you had been signed. Well done, Kalvin. You’ve earned it.
The Ramsdale family (parents Nick and Caroline, Edward, Oliver, Georgina and Ellie)
What a journey! From practising in the park, going to the Crown for Dad’s refreshments, Bolton to Huddersfield and not Fleetwood Mac, to Sheffield, Bournemouth via Chesterfield and Wimbledon and a crazy night in Bradford and in between playing for England Youth and Under-21 squads.
We are so bursting with pride with what you have achieved and this is just the beginning.
Never forget that we love you, believe in yourself as much as we believe in you, when life tries to knock you down this family will always have your back.
We love you Aaron – and that smile
Kevin Ball, Jordan’s academy manager at Sunderland
One of the things I always say to the young players is you are going to have to be strong to play for Sunderland. You’re going to have to deal with expectations, more than 40,000 people screaming at you, being told you’re not very good, being criticised and scrutinized. Jordan embraced that and he takes everything head on. He will not shirk a challenge and he will not back down. You can see that in his mentality now playing for England.
He used to challenge me as a coach and I liked that. He was so good with his feet that one of the things we used to do with him was get him to play as a centre-back sometimes. Not because he could have been one, but so it would increase his understanding of what the defenders in front of him need from a goalkeeper – communication, coming to get crosses. It helped that he was so good with his feet that he could pass it better than most centre backs, too.
Look at how many loan moves he had before he played for Sunderland’s first team. Every single time he wanted to go, to move away from home, taken out of his comfort zone and challenged. That is the boy he was and you can see it in the man he has become.
Lee Garcka, Kieran’s PE teacher at Woodhey High School, Bury
Good luck Kieran. You have been away from everyone during the Euros so I can tell you that kids are coming into school with their England football kits under their uniforms. You are an inspiration to them and we’re all supporting you and the team on Sunday like we have over the last few weeks.
When I think of you as a student I think of our cup final at Gigg Lane when we played St Monica’s, who had beaten us in Year 7, 8 and 9. We won 4-1 thanks to your hat-trick and to this day it was the best hat-trick I’ve ever seen at any level: a goal running the length of the pitch, a 35-yard half-volley and one from a similar distance to the goal against Croatia.
We thought it might not get any better after Russia but reaching the Euro final is just brilliant. We always knew you had talent, whether it was table-tennis, football or athletics, but you were also a leader and a motivator and we’re all very proud.
Steve Bruce, Jordan’s first manager at Sunderland
He has a great attitude, the way he conducts himself, it just goes to show what you can achieve. Liverpool captain, leading your country. Wow.
It is one of the nice parts of management seeing a player I had as a kid go on to become the player, the captain and the man he is today.
I remember when he was an 18-year-old in pre-season training and he was dropping back on the long runs to encourage the older players and help them through it. He’s always had those leadership skills and that willingness to help others. That’s why I put him in the team and once he got in he stayed there.
He had this wonderful application and desire to learn and improve. And yes, he did remind me a little of myself because I was always told ‘God loves a trier…’
But, by God, you would want a Jordan Henderson character in your team, no matter where you are or at what level. Watching him come on as a sub in the Denmark game and immediately start barking out orders to everyone. That’s Jordan.
Mike Dodds, Jude’s academy head coach at Birmingham
I worked with Jude for 10 years and I can’t say it was always easy – there was one time when he didn’t speak to me for three months, after we’d disagreed over something in a training session.
We used to have some very frank discussions and fall-outs, but we’re very close and it’s been a pleasure to see him develop.
It was very obvious at the age of 7 that he was special, but only after 10 first-team games did it really hit home.
It became very clear early on that we’d struggle to keep hold of him. He was a teenager playing in a team with many senior professionals but won their respect straight away.
He’s done brilliantly with England and Dortmund, he was only 18 a few weeks ago and his career is only just beginning. I’ll be a nervous wreck on Sunday, for sure!
Ronnie Branson, John’s former academy manager at Barnsley
John has always had a wicked sense of humour. He always had a deft one liner and he’d do great impressions of some of the coaching staff at Barnsley, too – fortunately not of me, though!
I remember he’d often have the dressing rooms in stitches. People probably don’t look at him as some sort of Terry Butcher figure, with blood streaming from a bandage around his head, but he’s shown he’s got a real steeliness and strength to him.
If the tournament had been this time last year he might not have been there. But he’s just played in a Champions League final with Manchester City and is now about to play in a Euros final and has done great as part of the Yorkshire wall, as they’re now known! He deserves everything he gets.