Gareth Southgate's England side are already winners - whatever happens against Italy: The Yorkshire Post says

The nation will unite on Sunday evening to witness something many have never seen in their lifetimes - the England men’s football team playing in a tournament final.

Gareth Southgate talks to his players during the half time break of extra time during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Semi-final match between England and Denmark. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

The match against Italy at Wembley is only the side’s second tournament final in history and the first in 55 years since the famous World Cup win in 1966.

The final will have particularly significance for the friends and families of the Yorkshire players who make up the spine of the team - Sheffield’s Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker, Barnsley’s John Stones and Kalvin Phillips, the homegrown hero of Leeds United, have all been central to England’s run to the final.

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Their achievements on the pitch have been overseen by adopted Yorkshireman Gareth Southgate who has lived in Harrogate for years and become a valued part of the local community.

But as impressive as their on-field performances have been, what they have done off the pitch has been arguably even more praiseworthy.

Prior to the tournament, Southgate published an open letter titled ‘Dear England’ at a point when the debate about England’s players taking the knee as part of their call for racial equality had been reaching fever pitch - being booed by a large section of the crowd at warm-up games in Middlesbrough and with politicians like Home Secretary Priti Patel claiming they were engaging in “gesture politics”.

Southgate set out his belief in the side’s duty to use their voices to discuss issues that matter to them and “help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate”.

As the tournament has gone on, the booing has subsided whilst the squad has exemplified the progressive, inclusive and tolerant England that Southgate gave as his vision of the nation.

Southgate wrote: there is more at stake this summer than winning matches.

“It’s about how we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch, how we bring people together, how we inspire and unite, how we create memories that last beyond the 90 minutes. That last beyond the summer. That last forever,” he said.

That aim has undoubtedly been achieved in magnificent fashion.

Whether tomorrow brings victory or defeat, they are already true winners.

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