GARETH SOUTHGATE has created something really special with the England football team.

It is young, it is diverse and it doesn’t have overpreening superstars. It is cautious in its approach yet confident in its outlook.

And it looks happy in its own skin.

The horrors of the far right extremists who wrapped themselves in the cross of St George have faded with time and so there is no longer a tinge of shame in seeing the national flag flying high; now there’s only pride.

But equally, by taking the knee, the team has taken this gesture away from the extremists so that it now represents an ideal of equality and fairness that matters increasingly to the young in this country.

Southgate has brought all these different elements together in his team which does reflect the country: we are not a place of political extremes, but somewhere we can all jolly along together, bringing the best out in each other to achieve a common goal.

It helps, of course, that the team have shown themselves to be winners. No one can criticise finalists, but it is only a couple of weeks ago that Southgate’s selections were openly questioned and his team was booed off after it failed to impress against Scotland.

It has been a joy to have followed the team’s journey and to see England painted as winners – something not experienced by anyone under the age of 55.

So we approach the final as Gareth has taught us. Our sober assessment is that the Italians are really very good, marrying a craggy determination with great flashes of flair, but we as a nation also have a new-found and quiet confidence that we really can do it.

Good luck, lads. You’ve done us proud so far – now bring the trophy home.