A day that could have given us something we've yearned for as a nation for 55 years descended into disappointment at best, and thuggery and racism at worst.

I took the train from Peterborough Station at 12.30pm, and it was clear even then there were people on-board who were already deep into their day's mission.

Most were sitting quietly, but others came out with the usual sexist and homophobic 'bants', and my lack of height was always going to be a target as well.
The journey through the tube system from King's Cross was accompanied by the 'England' banging of the panels on the wall throughout, and I headed off to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, which were raucous.

There was live music and smiles from the 99%, but it's always the 1% that is the loudest isn't it?

A ball was kicked about to cheers as traffic passed, with no damage done. But the litter was building, and every so often a ball would be volleyed into cars and cyclists and being blasted into people's bodies.

Then I went to Wembley for a brief run of the gauntlet through mountains of rubbish, bottles and traffic cones launching into the air while young children ran underneath, grasping their parents' hands.

I've been to Wembley many times, including Wednesday where there was singing in the sunshine and not a hint of trouble. I'd have loved to have taken my little girl there.

Yesterday's Sunday evening game gave visitors a chance to drink earlier and in more volume, and there was an air of menace. The flares gave it that hazy, almost dream-like quality, which hid some of the trouble ahead.

I would estimate there were 200,000 people outside the ground, carrying crates and plastic bags of booze. I'd already listened to several conversations from people who had no tickets, but were going and gave the impression they would work out what to do when they arrived.

So the worst aspect is that, in hindsight and looking back at the videos of what happened later, I could pick out exactly who was likely to try and break in. I got in three hours early, because it was so oppressive outside. Noticeably I barely saw an Italian shirt or flag.

And the aftermath of the match...as a society we should never tar everyone with the same brush, and rightfully so, from all political persuasions and parts of society. The Wembley crowd would probably be one of the more multicultural in world football, as it should be.

Which makes it all the more galling and remote, and even predictable, that players would be targeted immediately afterwards because of their colour.

In fact, there was a very vocal man of colour sitting behind me who I found really entertaining in his support for Manchester United players in the England team. When Rashford and Sancho missed, at least one supporter nearby turned around and shouted "yeah, lot of good your lot did", which I'm hoping meant the club they played for, rather than the skin colour they all shared.

Until more measures are put in place to identify people on social media there's no reason for it to stop, other than these offenders becoming decent human beings of course.

Afterwards, we all trudged out back to Wembley's tube stations, through the detritus and past shattered barriers and collapsed stands, tens of thousands of us standing cheek by jowl in the stations.

The journey back to Peterborough was sombre and sleepy - I can only imagine what it would have been like if we'd won. Again, the vast majority at the stadium were great, the atmosphere was tremendous, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I will still try and defend England fans, the Millwall of the world - no-one likes us and we don't care, but we should. I was in Marseille a few years ago, and Porto two years back, and saw isolated incidents that were tackled quickly.

But in our own gaff, we write the rules, seemingly and shamefully - particularly now, when it's such a contrast to the character of the team itself, which did itself proud against the best team in the competition.

The strain of the last year and its release is no excuse for a lot of yesterday's behaviour. Perhaps there weren't enough police, although there were noticeably more at Peterborough train station; 'there's a funny smell of bacon in the air', indeed.

I get that some of those involved have had 16 months from hell, and not been to matches or clubs in that time. But those thugs who punched through the barriers, and the idiots that attacked them as they came in, should not be excused. There are sadly just some who can't handle their drink, don't want to handle their drink, and society bears the consequences.

Qatar won't tolerate this next year, just as Russia didn't three years ago, and so I still expect a Christmas World Cup to be something to behold. I'm already looking forward to it, and I hope that England's fans - the proper ones - are as well.

In the meantime, football returns to our city in August, with a first Championship game in years against Derby County, and we can consign Euro 2020 to the history books. We'll see you then.


The spectacular opening ceremony. By John Baker