Duncan Watmore is sharing in the excitement of football fans across the country, and has spoken of his pride in those leading the way for the Three Lions at Euro 2020.
Good times never seemed so good as last night’s semi-final against Denmark, with Harry Kane’s extra-time winner sending England to a first ever European Championships final.
The Boro forward enjoyed the rollercoaster ride with supporters throughout the nation.
“My highest praise for Gareth Southgate is what he’s like as a person."Duncan Watmore
“Nothing quite gets you like the English football team,” he said.
“You see the whole country how it unites everyone - all my friends and family, everyone I know.
“I was very very nervous, then obviously absolutely buzzing. What a feeling, the first final in 55 years, it’s amazing.
“It’s coming home - that seems to be all anyone is talking about and it’s brilliant.”
England manager Gareth Southgate has long been a household name on Teesside, a legendary cup-winning captain for the Boro before taking his early steps in management at the Riverside. Watmore came to know Southgate when involved in the England Under-21 setup, and echoes the acclaim the national boss has received from far and wide.
“My highest praise for him is what he’s like as a person,” Watmore said.
“I think you can see that from how highly is regarded and spoken of by everyone who comes across him.
“There isn’t much I can’t say about him if I’m honest, he’s a brilliant man and a brilliant manager - how honest he is, how fairly he treats people and how interested he is in their lives and what’s going on around them. But he’s also intelligent and studious - he’s such a clever man and knows so much about football.
“He’s obviously such a nice guy but he has that ruthlessness when he needs it, in a football sense.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my two years under him with the U21s. I’m so happy for him and for the team because they play under so much pressure and they’re doing such an amazing job. I’m feeling the same as everyone in the country, so excited and just buzzing for Sunday.”
Watmore says the culture of togetherness displayed by the Three Lions has long been one of the strings to Southgate’s bow.
“Gareth was very keen on that, there was a lot to do with the culture and changing it, and making it so that everyone knew exactly what it meant to play for England.
“It feels like a family, that’s what he’s trying to create - and that’s through a lot of hard work and effort from the players, management and staff over many years. This isn’t an overnight change and this is why they’re seeing the long term benefits, because they started such a long time ago. He’s been huge on that, the culture of the team, making it right off the pitch so you can get it right on the pitch.”
Last season’s top scorer for Boro, Watmore is cheering on former teammates in the England team. He was together with the likes of Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Ben Chilwell with the Young Lions, while goalkeeper Jordan Pickford - who broke the minutes without conceding record held by the great Gordon Banks last night - is a good friend from their shared time at Sunderland.
“It’s incredible, Pickers is such a good guy, we shared a room at the U21s together and to see his journey and how far he’s gone is just amazing," said Watmore.
“I feel like he’s taken everything in his stride. I never doubted he would, he’s that kind of character and got that amount of ability.
“He’s an incredible goalkeeper, a great guy and I’m so happy for him and how well he’s doing.”
Watmore has one final word ahead of Sunday’s huge final against Italy.
“One more game to go. Get it done, It’s coming home!”