And so to the Euros, the 60th anniversary edition of football’s European Championships, delayed from last year.

This Friday sees the opening match of the tournament, when Italy take on Turkey in Rome, the first game in a month long feast of international football.

If you’ve been saturated by the omnipresence of football being on pretty much every day during the pandemic, you might want to look away now.

As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations, UEFA decided that rather than choosing one host country, the tournament would be spread right across the continent.

The number of countries involved has been trimmed a bit, but you’ve still got eleven cities involved from London and Glasgow to St Petersburg and Baku, with Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rome, Bucharest, Seville, Munich and Budapest in between.

It probably wasn’t a great idea when Michel Platini first came up with it, but to continue in the face of Covid-19 restrictions feels bizarre.

For England, this has meant that the team will play their group games at Wembley, and will return there for the semi-final and final, should they get that far (depending on results, they might also play their last sixteen game there as well).

That home advantage inevitably brings back memories of the summer of 25 years ago, when England hosted Euro 96 and reached the semi-finals.

It’s a summer I remember well, having just finished university and with the country in the grip of Britpop, Cool Britannia and Tony ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ Blair preparing to sweep into power.

In reality, there was a bit of rose-tinted spectacles going on.

Last summer, with Euro 2020 postponed and football suspended, I found myself watching reruns of some of the Euro 96 matches.

I’d forgotten the stodginess of the matches against Switzerland and Spain, and while Gazza’s goal against Scotland was a work of genius, Scotland, too, were unfortunate.

The one match that held up was the 4-1 defeat of the Netherlands, the dangerous sort of once-in-a-generation performance that dares you to believe anything is possible.

England’s record over recent European Championships is not one to write home about.

In 2008, they failed to qualify, having been beaten at home by Croatia (ominously, also England’s opening match on Sunday).

In 2012, they went out on penalties to Italy in one of the worst goalless draws I can remember – one English shot on target in two hours of football. In 2016, well, Iceland.

As always with England, expectations are on a pendulum.

At the World Cup in 2018, expectations were low, making their semi-final run a pleasant surprise.

This time round, they’re touted as one of the favourites, which in my experience usually means the opposite.

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