Euro 2020 is already off to a cracking start for England fans.
It’s been a long time coming – but after a year of postponement due to the pandemic, with the sun shining and temperatures soaring, European football’s flagship tournament finally got underway over the weekend.
24 countries are battling it out for the sought-after trophy, including three UK home nations – England, Scotland, and Wales.
The tournament’s first match saw Italy secure a win over Turkey on Friday, but for many Mancunians and football fans up and down the country, all eyes were set on Sunday when England would face the team that knocked them out of the World Cup in 2018.
Gareth Southgate’s squad faced Croatia in their first match at Wembley Stadium, securing a solid 1-0 victory – which is the first time England has ever won their opening game at the European championships.
The goal by Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling looked to kick-start what we’re all hoping will be a special summer of sport.
But it perhaps won’t quite be the summer of sport we were all expecting.
Euro 2020 is due to take place right through until 11 July, but after a ruling which sadly looked imminent for weeks prior, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has this evening confirmed that the country’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’ – which was originally set as 21 June – is to be delayed by four weeks, with an anticipated lifting of all lockdown / social restrictions now set for 19 July, at the earliest.
The UK government has always maintained the stance that it would be guided by “data not dates” when it comes to introducing each step in its “irreversible” roadmap for lifting the current national lockdown, and that the date for each step was not set it stone.
Despite this admission though, today’s latest decision will have undoubtedly still dealt a blow to the rafts of England fans who were hoping to bring the unrivalled atmosphere of the 2018 World Cup and previous tournaments back to Manchester.
While bustling fan parks, roaring goal celebrations, pints being thrown in the air, hugging strangers, and joining in for renditions of Three Lions may not be on the cards this year after all, that doesn’t mean we still can’t make some unique memories.
Against all the odds, maybe Euro 2020 will be the tournament that England fans remember fondly for years to come?
We can always still hold out hope that football is coming home, right?
It truly is all to play for this week, as England face fellow home nation and old rivals Scotland this Friday in the second match of the Group Stage.
Fans will descend on Wembley once again, with a kick-off set for 8pm.
Looking for somewhere to watch?
Manchester is a city that’s obsessed with football and its engrained in our culture like nothing else, so it’s understandable that there’s plenty places in the city centre that are pulling out all the stops in the safest way possible for the Euros this year, and after being inundated with messages from our loyal audience who were keen to find out the best places to catch a match this summer, we’ve knuckled down and did the leg work for you.
So if you’re looking for some recommendations ahead of England vs Scotland this Friday, you can check out 20 of the best spots in Manchester city centre here.
Don’t fancy hitting up the city centre this weekend though? Prefer to celebrate at home instead?
Cheering on the national team in the company of fellow eager football fans definitely has its appeal, but it’s not for everyone and many would rather spend it with their nearest and dearest in the comfort of their own home or garden instead.
If that sounds a little more up your street, then you’re not alone, as we asked our Facebook community to send us pictures of their garden setups ready for last Sunday’s match – and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
If you’re thinking of kitting out your garden this weekend, then you can head on over and check out the roundup article for some inspiration here.
Rugby legend, ultra-marathon runner, inspiration | Kevin Sinfield — Manc of the Month November 2022
It’s that time of the month again (no, not that one): it’s time to pick our Manc of the Month for November and while there were plenty to pick from, one man has stood out in the past few weeks.
Kevin Sinfield is the ex-rugby player turned coach, ultra-marathon-runner and mega-fundraiser from our very own Oldham who did something truly amazing earlier this month.
The 42-year-old former loose forward, who currently serves as a defensive coach for the Leicester Tigers in the rugby union, has gone from a Manc-born sporting role model to a national hero thanks to his extremely admirable charity work over the past couple of years.
This bloke is a machine.
Seven ultra-marathons in seven days
For anyone unaware of Sinfield’s latest exploits, the former Leeds Rhinos player and director undertook the immense ‘Ultra 7 in 7‘ challenge earlier this month, tasking himself with the ridiculous feat of running seven ultra-marathons in seven days.
To put that into context, a standard marathon measures just over 26 miles or 42 kilometres; ultra marathons regularly clock in at 50km or more. Sinfield is said to have covered more than 256 miles (approx. 417km), averaging more than 60km a day. Insane.
Finishing the series of ultra-marathons alongside his dedicated team of runners on November 19 at Old Trafford, just in time for the 2022 Rugby League World Cup final, he was met with rapturous applause from the crowd — and rightly so.
The ex-Rhinos and England international set himself the target of raising £777,777 for Motor Neuron Disease in honour of his former teammate and equally inspiring close friend, Rob Burrows. He went on to absolutely smash that goal, amassing an incredible £1.4 million in donations in just a week.
Moreover, just last year he put himself through similarly unimaginable levels of strain by running a 24-hour marathon for the first time, raising over £1m for MND in November 2021 alone.
Again, this man is utterly remarkable.
Covering more than double the distance he managed the last time around, raising a total of over £2.3m across his two 7 in 7 ultra runs, it cannot be understated how much he has done for more than five different motor neuron disease charities in just a few short years.
Even before his latest heroics, Sinfield’s contributions to motor neuron awareness and fundraising were recognised by the local ouncil alongside record-breaking rower and Oldham native, Frank Rothwell, who were both bestowed with the little-known ‘Freedom of the Borough’ award back in March.
As for this year’s ultra-marathon challenge, his route saw him trek all the way from Edinburgh, through various parts of Yorkshire and, finally, back down to his home county of Greater Manchester. Not even bathroom breaks could stop him.
Compelled to run and raise as much as possible to support the MND community and honour Burrows, who was diagnosed with the disease back in 2019, Sinfield has made it his mission to help raise awareness and fund research into the rare condition which affects the brain and nervous system.
Joined by peers like footballer Stephen Darby as well as late rugby union colleague and fellow MND suffer Doddie Weir, who sadly passed away just last week, these and many more who supported Sinfield’s campaign have done untold levels of good when it comes to highlighting the disease.
Since beginning his fundraising journey in 2019, Kevin Sinfield has now raised over £7 million for the Motor Neuron Disease Association (MNDA) and related charities through his ultra-marathons and other charitable efforts, a miraculous and potentially fortune-changing amount that could save countless lives.
This absolute hero has already helped raise in excess of £2.6m all told with this year’s Ultra 7 in 7 alone, but if you want to join the millions of people still donating then you can do so HERE.
Featured Image — Wikimedia Commons/Hull FC/Leicester Tigers
Rashford explains heartbreaking reason behind his celebration after wonder free-kick against Wales
On Tuesday night, Marcus Rashford lit up what had previously been an underwhelming final group game against Wales with what we can only describe as an absolute stunner of a free-kick.
Swapping out his usual knuckleball technique for a whipped but equally fast-paced finish into the top right corner, the 25-year-old wheeled away to celebrate with the travelling fans but not long after, he dropped to his news and pointed to the sky.
While not an entirely uncommon celebration in the world of football, it did seem like a somewhat muted reaction from the Man United forward, especially after such an incredible opening goal.
Speaking to media after the game, it turns out Rashford‘s celebration was dedicated to a close friend who passed away a couple of days prior.
As the Wythenshawe-born star went on to explain, choosing to point to the sky for the celebration was his way of paying tribute to a friend who sadly died following a long battle with cancer.
The joint-leading goalscorer this World Cup went on to say, “I’m pleased I managed to score for him, he’s always been a big supporter of mine. He’s just a great person to have come into my life”. Heartbreaking.
As confirmed by several outlets after the press conference, Rashford’s late friend was Garfield Hayward, a 35-year-old also from Manchester, who is said to have passed away last week.
Nicknamed ‘Garf’, his nephew wrote on social media: “My heart is hurting so much knowing I won’t see you again in this life… it won’t be the same without you being here… You didn’t have a bad bone in your body you would give anything and everything you could with even a single bit of hesitation.” So touching.
It was no wonder Rashford himself was so quick to go and celebrate with his loved ones after the fact.
Rashford made it three goals in as many games at Qatar 2022 following his wonderful free-kick and equally well-worked second goal, with fellow Manc Phil Foden scoring the second goal only seconds after the opener.
England now face Senegal in the Round of 16 and the way these two lads looked on the night, we expect Manchester to be putting on a show come the weekend.