I woke up at 8:00am on the morning of June 20th 2016 to my mother calling me to let me know that BBC radio Suffolk want to talk to my father and I, also that we had made the front page of the East Anglian Daily Times along with a full page spread inside that days issue.
In our hotel room in the beautiful historical French town of Le Pu en Velay we started preparing ourselves to speak about the England v Wales match from 4 days ago and the match against Slovakia which was due to kick off that afternoon in Saint Etienne. At around 9:45 am we went live on air with Mark Murphy.
As Mark was interviewing us I had several fond memories of following England in my mind. I felt like I had come a long way.
Growing up in Bury St Edmunds my turning point was the Italian world cup of 1990. I watched every match and was hooked and watched every match from then on. Nine years later I remember standing in the Queens Head pub in Churchgate Street watching Shearer score his hat trick and the atmosphere of the Bury crowd filling the pub was completely electric.
When watching England on tv from Bury, Wembley always seemed so far away to get to for me and I always desperate to go. Fast forward ten years when I moved in to my first loft style apartment in Ealing West London, I was watching England line up for a home match on the tv and I could see the arch at Wembley Stadium lit up from my living room and I promised myself that as I was so close I was going to start following the England national team.
Back to the Euros in France we were very excited about the match against Wales, even more so than the other matches which we had tickets for. This match represented a huge step for Wales in the international football scene being their first qualification into a major finals. For England it was what some considered our toughest challenge in the group as Wales were somewhat of an unknown quantity not to mention they had the most expensive player in the world, on form and desperate to beat us. Both teams and sets of fans praying for a good game of football and of course for bragging rights of victory in this battle of the home nations.
The Wales match was exciting for me as was the first England match I attended with my father.
England v Scotland, August 14th 2013, Wembley Stadium. The battle of the auld enemy. This was my father’s first England match and my 10th. This one was extra special as England v Scotland is the oldest international fixture in the world, first played in 1872 at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow. It was historical; the atmosphere was the best I had ever experienced in a sell-out Wembley crowd. For my father’s generation Scotland was always the team to beat, more so than Germany even. This match was a true football event.
The buzz around the ground and the drive the players on the pitch displayed made an excellent all be it fairly close 5 goal extravaganza which thankfully fell in favour of England with a 3-2 victory.
In the stadium that day I noticed something which I had seen many times before but i hadn’t taken it on board in the same way. THE FLAGS!!
Flags everywhere from both sets of fans covered every possible spot all around the ground. Each one proudly displaying its owner’s names or its owner’s home location all united in their support for their international team. As I looked around this patriotic display searching for a flag from our home town I realised there wasn’t one from Bury St Edmunds.
As we left the Stadium that night we were discussing the next England v Scotland fixture which was due in the November of the following year. This was to be our first England away match and the first time the flag of St Edmund was to go with me.
I took the flag to Berlin for the monumental win over the Germans in the Olympiastadion and of course all three group matches at the Euro’s for the Russia, Wales and Slovakia matches. Everywhere I take it people ask where the flag is from and its significance. In France we were filmed and photographed by the world’s media. Russian, Welsh, French, Slovakian and English fans and news reporters to name a few all enquiring about Bury St Edmunds. It provided a constant reminder of where I come from, where I grew up and the responsibility and pride of bearing the flag and representing Bury St Edmunds in my own little way.
I will never go to an England match without the flag now so if you are watching the matches and you see the flag, please know that I fly it to make sure Bury St Edmunds is represented wherever we play abroad and especially at Wembley Stadium.