Fans cheer on England to victory in Sunderland pub gardens as Euro 2020 gets under way
After a long wait and three lockdowns, supporters in Sunderland turned out in a socially-distanced force to cheer on the Three Lions during their first match of Euro 2020.
The sun blazed down on the fanzone at Victoria Gardens in Hendon as England kicked off their first group match against Croatia – the nation which knocked them out of the World Cup semi-final in 2018.
But this year’s tournament will look very different from previous years. Just a limited number of fans are allowed inside stadiums across the host countries and pubs and beer gardens, which would normally be crammed with people, are socially distanced.
A continuous flow of pints were brought out by staff to the seated fans who’d gathered in the China Street pub as they cheered on Gareth Southgate’s team in their 1-0 victory.
And although everyone was hoping for an England win – supporters had different ideas on who may score the winning goal.
At half time, 32-year-old Craig Gardner thought it would be Jack Grealish who’d come off the bench to see the team to victory – but the crowd roared as Raheem Sterling pinged it into the back of the net in the 57th minute.
Craig said: “It’s just nice to be outside. It’s just a bit of normality, that’s the main thing. It’s been a really good atmosphere – the sound was a bit quiet on the TV early on but once that turned up it really got going.
"It’s just a shame it’s not a full crowd at the stadium or here, the place would normally be packed.”
Ahead of the match 76-year-old David Polley, who was with wife Isabella, predicted a close game but was confident the Three Lions would take the win.
Isabella said: "It’s the first we’ve been out after lockdown and we’ve got the weather for it. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Despite a goalless first half, the supporters in Hendon never lost faith in their team.
Speaking at half time, Derek McCormack, 22, said: “I think Croatia are a little bit scared – yes they beat us in the semi-final but I think we’re looking for a bit of revenge now.
"It’s brilliant, the suns out, we’re getting our tan on, got the factor 30 on – I’m feeling really positive about it.”
Tom Henderson, 21, added: “It’s great to get out with the lads – I haven’t been out in months so it’s great to have a bit of normality.
"It’s a good atmosphere but it’ll be even better if we win.”
The screen will be at Victoria Gardens for the next four weeks with supporters able to order food from Diego Italian while they enjoy the Euros.
Manager Helen Maddison said: “We’re over the moon. We’re relieved everyone has turned up and everyone has been sat down behaving themselves because we were a bit worried but so far everyone has been great.”
Ahead of the match, Neville Rodgers – who enjoyed the game with Debbie McGinlay, Fraser Rodgers and Olivia Foley – said: “We live nearby – this is our local – and the beer garden has been very proactive. They had a music festival here a few Sundays ago and we were here for that. It seems to be well supported people are coming in.”