'This is the best day of my life!': Harborough football fan's reaction from Rome after watching England beat Ukraine
A deliriously happy Market Harborough football fan cheered England to a thumping 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome last night before roaring – this is the best day of my life!
Overjoyed Brad Williams, 29, landed the hottest ticket in town on a red-hot night in the Eternal City as Gareth Southgates’s Three Lions side stormed into the semi-finals of the Euros.
He was lucky enough to be one of just 2,560 England supporters in the magnificent Stadio Olimpico last night as over 20 million people tuned in to watch skipper Harry Kane and the team set up a spine-tingling showdown with Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Brad was still buzzing as he spoke to the Harborough Mail today as he jumped aboard a train in Rome to make the three-hour journey back to Naples.
“I’m so thrilled, so ecstatic, it’s hard to put into words exactly how I feel!
“To see England for the first time and to see us blast Ukraine 4-0 with four brilliant goals was just beyond belief,” said Brad, whose family live on Lubenham Hill, Market Harborough.
“And what made it even better on the night was that there was such a fantastic spirit among everybody there – the England fans, the Ukrainian supports, the Italian hosts.
“I didn’t see one bit of trouble – we were all enjoying ourselves far too much and having one hell of a party!
“This was a day and a very very special night that I’ll never ever forget.”
The English teacher rolled into Rome at about 2.30pm yesterday afternoon after managing to nab a 75 Euro ticket through his English mate Sam, who’s also based in Naples.
“I’ve got so many stories to tell!
“Even on the train in I palled up with two English blokes who live in Berlin and had jetted into Naples before catching the train to the match in Rome.
“I went to have a meal before meeting up with Sam as the atmosphere in the city began to build.
“It was very hot, very sultry, probably nudging 30C (86F).
“The Italians had laid on a fleet of free buses for us at the railway station,” said Brad, whose girlfriend Masha, 26, is Ukrainian.
“We were given a police escort with motorbike outriders and flashing lights and sirens as we were rushed straight to the stadium.
“Police patrols stopped the traffic to get us through, we felt like royalty being swept through the streets of Rome!
“Security at the Stadio Olimpica was very tight when we got there.
“My passport, ticket, and Covid test result must have been checked at least 10 times by police and officials both outside and inside the ground as we were filed in,” said Brad, who attended Welland Park Academy and Robert Smyth Academy in Market Harborough.
“My heart was beating like a drum and the adrenalin was pumping through my veins as we climbed hundreds of steps up to our seats.
“I just couldn’t believe it.
“Here I was, minutes away from watching the biggest match I’ve ever been to – and the noise was rising.
“We were sat in the North Stand of the gigantic ground with some excited Ukraine fans, who were fine.
“But we quickly got swept up in a bunch of about 30 England supporters and sat behind one of the goals with them.
“The ground just exploded when Harry Kane led the England side out on to the pitch, I could hardly hear myself think it was that loud.
“And when Kane struck inside four minutes after a brilliant ball from Raheem Sterling to fire us ahead we just took the roof off!
“We were jumping and dancing all over the place, total strangers from all over the place were hugging each other, we just went bonkers.
“Talk about the perfect start, it was mad.
“There were even two German fans in there decked out in German tops sitting there with us.
“And the two German lads were belting out Football’s Coming Home along with the rest of us at the top of their voices – it was crazy!
“The first-half was tight with one or two scares,” said Brad, a lifelong Sunderland fan.
“But once Harry Maguire and Kane pounced within minutes of each other just after the break to seal it we really were in seventh heaven.
“And seeing Jordan Henderson, our old Sunderland star, grabbing his first ever England goal to make it 4-0 put the icing on the cake,” smiled Brad.
“The Ukraine guys were very gracious in defeat.
“They shook our hands, told us we completely deserved to win and wished us all the best against the Danes on Wednesday night.
“Leaving the stadium the scenes of delight, jubilation and sheer ecstasy were just incredible.
“England fans hugging each other, dancing around, swigging cans of beer, singing our hearts out.
“Golden memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life – and new friends too that I’ll keep in touch with for years to come.
“But our journey doesn’t end here,” said Brad, who’s also lived abroad teaching in Russia and Poland since leaving his hometown Market Harborough in October 2015.
“Denmark are a good side and, of course, they’ve been everyone’s second side since Christian Eriksen had a dramatic heart attack on the pitch in the match against Finland in the Euros.
“Thank God he’s recovering.
“But I predict we’ll see off the Danes 2-0 at Wembley.
“And I’m also very confident that we can beat either Spain or Italy to win our first ever Euros – and our first trophy since winning the World Cup in July 1966.
“Gareth Southgate is an amazing man and he’s got just about every call spot on and dead right during this tournament.
“We’ve got a brilliant squad and so many talented players we can bring off the bench to turn a game – such as Phil Foden and Jack Grealish.
“So bring on the Danes at Wembley on Wednesday.
“The Three Lions are roaring louder than they’ve done for years and we really can bring football home again,” vowed Brad.
“As for my Ukrainian girlfriend Masha.
“She watched us win on the TV back at her home in Krakow in Poland.
“And don’t worry, we’re still very much together despite the result!
“Masha admitted we were the superior team and deserved to win all night long.
“Cheering us to an epic 4-0 victory in Rome’s iconic Stadio Olimpico alongside our incredible fans from all over England as well as across Europe was just mind-blowing.
“Now Harry Kane and the boys have got to power on and finish the job.
“And I’m 100 per cent sure that come next Sunday we’ll be lifting the cup back at our very own Wembley, the home of football!”