The following is a collection of stories told over the years to The Players’ Tribune by stars of the English national team that highlight their unique journeys and what representing their country means to them.
To read the full 2021 article, “Dear England,” click here.
There’s something I tell our players before every England game, and the reason that I repeat it is because I really believe it with all my heart.
I tell them that when you go out there, in this shirt, you have the opportunity to produce moments that people will remember forever.
You are a part of an experience that lasts in the collective consciousness of our country.
We saw that during Russia 2018, with the street parties, the barbecues and with every drop of beer thrown into the air in celebration. When England play, it’s not a few thousand — or even a few million — watching on subscription. You are representing more than 50 million people.
You are a part of an experience that lasts in the collective consciousness of our country.- Gareth Southgate
You remember where you were watching England games. And who you were watching with. And who you were at the time.
What is sometimes forgotten is just how much it means to the players.
Players are fans too, after all. That’s how it starts. It starts with kids sitting in front of TVs, with wall charts and heroes.
Undoubtedly, we’re in a different era now, where footballers aren’t as accessible to fans as they once were. They don’t ride the same bus home from games, or meet in the pub for a pint and a post-match analysis.
But, despite all the changes in modern football, what cannot be questioned about the current generation of England players is their pride in representing this country.
This idea that some players don’t know what it means to play for England — or don’t care — has become something of a false narrative.
You don’t need to dig deep to realise that.
The journey to earn an England cap is an incredibly difficult one, regardless of background or circumstance.
Only around 1,200 players have represented England at senior men’s level. Ever.
This is a special group. Humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves.