Fans leave Wembley after England’s semi-final win over Denmark. Photograph:  Zac Goodwin/PA

For England or Italy historic elevation awaits as an absorbing month comes to an end

Gareth Southgate: “I understand that on this island, we have a desire to protect our values and traditions – as we should – but that shouldn’t come at the expense of introspection and progress.” Photograph:  Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Unprecedented ‘Dear England’ letter shows exactly where coach’s inclusive squad stand

George Best in action at Old Trafford during a Division One game against Everton in 1968. Photograph:  Allsport

The Belfast prince added to his legend off the field but on it he was a man of substance

Alan  McLoughlin pictured in Malta in 1990. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Former Ireland midfielder remembers his friend and colleague with whom he shared so much

UK prime minister Boris Johnson at Hartlepool’s ground last week. Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Michael Walker: Boris Johnson, like many, sees football through the lens of soft power

Real Madrid head coach  Zinedine Zidane reacts during the Champions League quarter-final, second leg against Liverpool at Anfield. Photograph:  Michael Regan/Getty Images

Frenchman’s managerial reputation remains uncertain despite considerable success

Wes Hoolahan has been a key part of Cambridge’s good form this season. Photo: Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former Shelbourne playmaker is 38 but one of the U’s key men

Liverpool celebrate winning the 1965 FA Cup in their famous all red kit. File photograph: PA

The Scottish striker changed Liverpool and of how many can that be said?

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. Photo: Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images

South American’s relentless intensity and his team’s flair makes everybody smile

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi leaves the pitch after the Copa del Rey loss to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images

With Atlético moving clear at the top it could be another trophyless season for the great one

Hans Keller drools over Franz Beckenbauer strolling for Bayern Munich in the 1976 European Cup final against St Etienne. File photograph: Getty Images

Michael Walker: In Music, Closed Societies and Football Keller defends individualism

 Aston Villa manager Dean Smith: in speaking to his players, the team improved and instead of finishing 19th, Villa ended the season 17th. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Aston Villa manager learned at his first club the importance of connecting with players

 Manchester City great Colin Bell died aged 74 on Tuesday afternoon. File photograph: Getty Images

Mining, coal, part of the north-east of England’s raison d’etre, has gone

Jordan Henderson of Liverpool holds the Premier League trophy aloft as they celebrate winning the title at an empty Anfield after the victory over Chelsea in July.   Photograph:  Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Dreadful year also marked by the passing of many football greats

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are 14th in the Premier League table heading into the North London derby. Photograph: Julian Finney

Gunners are in need a major squad overhaul as they struggle for Premier League goals

 Frank Lampard has to be pleased with his new goalkeeper Edouard Mendy’s start at Chelsea. Photograph: PA

After investing €250 million in the summer window Lampard’s team are taking shape

Bobby Charlton (left), Nobby Stiles and Pat Charlton (wife of Jack Charlton) at the opening of Jack’s menswear shop in Garforth, near Leeds in November 1966. Jack was unable to attend the opening so Stiles and Bobby Charlton stepped in. Photo: Dewhurst/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Michael Walker: World Cup winner’s book gives fascinating detail on a different time

Manchester United’s goalkeeper David de Gea made a number of important saves during the win over PSG in Paris. Photograph: AP

Solskjaer’s team show improvements as Southampton’s faith in Hasenhuttl rewarded

Liverpool and Manchester United were behind plans for Project Big Picture. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Project Big Picture looks like a cynical step towards a breakaway European Super League

A mural is seen on the side of a building featuring an image of Leeds United’s Argentinian head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Argentinean manager is changing public persona of the club at the highest level

Gareth Bale scores for Real Madrid in their 2018 European Cup final win in Kiev. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty

As the great Matt Busby wrote, you can win without affection but you will gain nothing

Christian Pulisic’s form for Chelsea during the completion of last season’s Premier League will fill their supporters with confidence for new season. Photograph:  Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Frank Lampard still needs to sort out things at the back before they can mount a real challenge

 Bobby Robson’s idea of what a club should be does not reflect what clubs like PSG now represent. File photograph: Getty Images

Bobby Robson once told us what a football club should be and what it should mean

Barcelona have become increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi who is now 33. Photo: Getty Images

It’s been five years since they conquered Europe and are increasingly reliant on Messi

Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner having breakfast in bed after securing the FA Cup the day before. Photo: Varley Picture Agency

A leader, and for his willingness to be blunt, to challenge orthodoxy, he was cherished

Ian Baraclough steps up from Northern Ireland Under-21s to take over the senior side. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Inpho

New Northern Ireland boss provides continuity and has a wealth of youth to tap into

It’s not all been dilly-ding, dilly-dong, but Claudio Ranieri would applaud what Rodgers has moulded these past 15 months. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Top four place in Foxes’ hands as members of the so-called Big Six have vulnerabilities

Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki  is beaten by  Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich during the  Bundesliga  match at Signal Iduna Park. Photograph: Federico Gambarini/EPA

Sometimes what’s missing is everything as football returns behind closed doors

A videograb of Thierry Henry’s handball that led to William Gallas’s goal during the World Cup playoff, second leg against the Republic of Ireland   at the Stade de France in November 2009. Photograph: Sky Sports

A new book on French football looks at their meltdown at the 2010 Word Cup in South Africa

Robinson in action for Ireland in 1984. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Michael Walker: Former Ireland international won at life both on and off the pitch

Spain’s Miguel Indurain in the yellow jersey  is protected by his team-mates Marino Alonso (left) and Pedro Delgado (centre) during the 17th stage of the 1992 Tour de France. Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP via Getty Images

July 4th, 1992: The Tour de France gets underway in the Basque Country

Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough and assistant Peter Taylor look on before the 1980 European Cup Final against Hamburg SV  at the  Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. Photograph:   Duncan Raban/Allsport/Getty Images

Benefits of movement in football are well documented, but ability to stay put is key also

1/9/2001 World Cup QualifierRepublic of Ireland vs HollandRoy Keane of Ireland tackles Marc Overmars of HollandMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Our soccer columnist takes a look back on the footballing giants in green

Atletico Madrid fans celebrate the victory over Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday night. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images

Uefa will be required to play leading role as game deals with enormity of coronavirus outbreak

Jurgen Klopp: has the experience of leading Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles. Photograph:  Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images)

Klopp has every reason to trust his side as Bournemouth and then Atletico come calling

Nigel Pearson could lead Watford to Premier League survival. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Certain similarities can be drawn with manager’s miraculous escape at Leicester

 Tottenham Hotspur’s Jimmy Greaves has a shot blocked by a Burnley defender at White Hart Lane in 1963. Photograph: Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images

Knighthood would do little to burnish stellar reputation of former Spurs goal machine

 Hearts fans paid back  the £2.5 million owed to benevolent owner Ann Budge. Her  75.1 per cent shareholding will be transferred to FoH in early April. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The question of just who owns football is raging just now in Britain

West Ham United’s London Stadium has none of the atmosphere of the old Upton Park. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Just like Arsenal’s move from Highbury, the Hammers left something behind at Upton Park

Harry Maguire of Manchester United  during their FA Cup Third Round Replay victory over Wolverhampton  at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He scored for Leicester against Liverpool a year ago, but can he step up for Solskjaer?

Jose Mourinho: if Tottenham reel in fourth-placed Chelsea and it will be an even greater achievement by the manager than steering Manchester United to a second-place finish behind Man City in 2018. Photograph: Lindsy Parnaby/AFP

Kane’s injury the latest blow for a club badly struggling to build on last year’s promise

Brian Barry-Murphy: ‘I one million per cent believe that we have exceptional young players who will go on to higher things.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Newcastle’s visit in FA Cup a welcome break from relegation fight for Rochdale boss

Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy takes a shot during the Premier League clash with Newcastle United last weekend. Photo: Scott Heppell/Reuters

Midfielder completed 90 minutes for first time in three years and has eyes on Slovakia

 Emiliano Sala and Cardiff City chief executive Ken Choo on January 18th, 2019, in Cardiff, Wales. Photograph: Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

Emiliano Sala’s death and the unravelling of the FAI bookended a remarkable year

 Marcelo Bielsa: “In my humble opinion, most important is to try to make the supporters value play and not just the result.”  Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Respected Argentine coach presiding over a transformation in club’s fortunes

The rush to coo over three points gained against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s predecessor José Mourinho left the previous two Premier League games an afterthought.  This thinking needs to change. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/EPA

Both clubs enter Manchester derby with concerns but one deals in trust, the other in hope

 Liverpool goalkeeper Elisha Scott makes a save against Arsenal  during a league clash in 1931. The legendary Irish goalkeeper made his debut in 1912 and left the club 22 years later. Photograph: Jack Lambert/Popperfoto  via Getty Images

Great goalkeeper’s long career sealed his place in the pantheon of Liverpool’s all-time greats

Republic of Ireland fans celebrate Matt Doherty’s goal against Denmark at the Aviva Stadium. Would  an All-island league help to draw the two footballing authorities in Ireland closer together in a time of potential political change.  Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Things are in flux on the island and it’s hard to know what shape the game will be in by 2030

Michael O’Neill: has led Northern Ireland from 102nd in the Fifa world rankings to 34th today. Photograph: William Cherry/Presseye/Inpho

Formidable manager has overseen a remarkable transformation in North’s fortunes

Middlesbrough assistant Robbie Keane and  manager Jonathan Woodgate: “I’ll tell the fans this is going to be rocky. We’re in a transitional phase, so you will have to be patient.” Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Michael Walker: As Middlesbrough go to QPR they have not scored in their last four games

City’s Sergio Agüero  celebrates after scoring in  the Champions League  match against  Atalanta at Etihad Stadium, Manchester,  on October 22nd. Photograph:  Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC

The players around him may be a reason why the striker is not given due credit

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: his side have not won away from home in 11 games – including seven defeats and four draws.  Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA.

A home defeat to Liverpool would pile added pressure on Old Trafford boss

George Best: produced an outstanding display to help Northern Ireland to a famous 2-2 draw in Rotterdam against a gifted Netherlands side. Photograph: Getty Images

Derek Spence recalls the famous night when he netted a late equaliser against the very best

A tribute to former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen  at Celtic Park, Glasgow, on  September 22nd. Photograph: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Lennon’s words might find an audience, and presence at Ricksen funeral might start rethink

 This season is Sunderland’s second season in the third division

Takeover hopes have Sunderland fans believing there may be light at the end of the tunnel – again

 A disconsolate supporter at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground following a decision by C&N Sporting Risk, saying it was unable to continue with its takeover of the club which was subsequently expelled from the Football League after 134 years.  Photograph:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Sad downfall of Bury FC the culmination of worrying developments in the English game

 Sheffield United’s John Lundstram celebrates with George Baldockin after scoring against Crystal Palace in their  Premier League game at  Bramall Lane, Sheffield, on August 18th. Photograph:  Reuters/Lee Smith

Teams affected by Bury and Bolton’s inability to stage matches may feel a sense of injustice

Mauricio Pochettino wants this to be a different season at the club, one that includes winning a first trophy since 2008. Photograph: Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty

A culture of not losing against the Burnleys and Bournemouths must be nurtured

Manchester City manager  Pep   Guardiola has created room in the middle of the pitch for his exceptional midfield. He has literally made the game bigger. Photograph: Getty Images

Liverpool likely to lead chasing pack as Spurs seek to reinforce their number one London status

Middlesbrough’s Robbie Keane and Jonathan Woodgate during a pre-season friendly against  Hartlepool United  at Victoria Park, Hartlepool. Photograph:   Mark Fletcher via Getty Images

Who walks through the door next May to the Premier League is of serious interest to at least a dozen clubs

The former Ireland manager reflects on past and present in Belfast, the city of his parents

The new manager and backroom  team at Middlesbrough  of  Robbie Keane, Jonathan Woodgate, Leo Percovich and Danny Coyne. Photograph: Tom Banks/MFC/PA Wire

‘Can you imagine the young players at this football club learning from Robbie?’

 Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris celebrates saving Sergio Aguero’s penalty in the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City. Photograph: Matthew Ashton  – AMA/Getty Images

Spurs goalkeeper can lift trophy at end of up-and-down season

There was a photograph of Grant Leadbitter on his knees on the final whistle against Portsmouth. It screamed. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Grant Leadbitter hopes to lead boyhood club to victory at Wembley after emotional return

 United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer   and Paul Pogba  after the final whistle   of the Premier League match against Cardiff at Old Trafford on May  12th. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Release of joy Solskjaer sparked from December to March has protected Glazers and Woodward

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola respect each other despite a deepening rivalry. Photograph: Reuters

Could we be on verge of City-Liverpool era as there was once with Man United and Arsenal?

Rafael Benitez: the former Liverpool manager could be overseeing his last home game for Newcastle when Klopp’s side continue their title pursuit on Tyneside on Saturday night. Photograph:  Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Peril for Liverpool 2019 is that on Tyneside they see their reflection in Newcastle 1996

Pat Jennings: He [Pochettino] has a great team around him and with the chairman they’ve done an unbelievable job. Hopefully we can push on – win the Champions League, get top four.”  Photograph:  Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Still coaching at Spurs, the legendary goalkeeper is thrilled with the club’s progress

Neil Warnock celebrates following Cardiff City’s crucial away Premier League win over Brighton which gives them a chance of avoiding relegation.  Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Irascible manager not to everybody’s taste but has proven his worth over the years

The public conversation Niall Quinn has been driving began following an invitation before Christmas to the PFAI awards night in Dublin. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Former international trying to build pathway for Irish players through the domestic game

Daniel Farke: Norwich City manager has oversen a dramatic upturn in the club’s fortunes since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team.   Photograph: Richard Sellers

Promotion looking likely for the German manager and the club’s astute sporting director Webber

Niall McGinn celebrates scoring against Estonia at Windsor Park in the Uefa 2020 qualifier. Photograph: Inpho/Presseye/Jonathan Porter

What does the Northern Ireland team mean to Protestant community?

Gerd Muller (hidden) is surrounded by his team-mates after scoring the winning goal for West Germany against the Netherlands during the 1974  World Cup final at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Photograph:  Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Memories of former clashes, including the 1974 final, will ensure a tense Euro 2020 qualifier

Birmingham City  fan Paul Mitchell invades the pitch and attacks Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish from behind  during Birmingham derby at St Andrew’s. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

As Jack Grealish discovered, so-called grown men are capable of odious behaviour

John Reynolds, Aston Villa, circa 1896, Reynolds is the only player to have  represented both Ireland and England at international level. Photograph:  Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images

In an unmarked grave in Sheffield lies the Blackburn-born midfielder John Reynolds

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers lifting the Scottish Cup  at Hampden Park, Glasgow, last May. As he  monitored Claude Puel’s downturn at Leicester City, he will have focused not just on Leicester’s wealth and potential, but also on English football’s broader appeal.  Photograph:  Graham Stuart/PA Wire

Winning 10 titles in a row could be seen as a Scottish weakness not a Celtic strength

United’s Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool  during a  league match at Anfield on October 15th, 2011. Photograph:  Getty Images

Klopp’s challenge has credibility lacking in the past – Sunday should be a special renewal

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is in so many ways United’s dream candidate. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Spurs manager has something Manchester United’s caretaker boss does not yet possess

Derry City manager Declan Devine: “From the first day in the door I thought we had to get local-based players.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The idea of a border reappearing due to Brexit is a future nobody at the club wants to see

City’s Kevin De Bruyne walks toward manager Pep Guardiola during his substitution at  St James’ Park, Newcastle. Photograph: Reuters/Lee Smith

After City’s defeat to Newcastle, one wondered if one substitution could possibly have changed a season

The Premier League is aware a Neil Warnock Little Englander image can be damaging. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Premier League is an international success story that could be changing

Martin O’Neill, the new Nottingham Forest manager,  poses with a shirt after a press conference at the City Ground, Nottingham. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

There’s lots of potential for a proven manager back at the club where he made his name as a player in the 1970s

 Marko Arnautovic of West Ham arguing with manager Manuel Pellegrini  when substituted during  an FA Cup  match against Birmingham City at the London Stadium on January 5th. Photograph:  Alex Morton/Getty Images

Michael Walker: blend of consistency ability and experience make him a wanted man

Owen Oyston (pictured at the back with the hat) was jailed for rape in 1996 and is currently bringing the club through a court battle. Photograph: Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Devoted fans to mount familiar protest outside ground during FA cup clash with Arsenal

Leicester City had just scored a second, late goal against Manchester City. At Anfield, the news was embraced like a lost medal. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

In the past five seasons, 81-82 points is the average required - Liverpool have 51 already

Cold front: José Mourinho. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

‘Palpable discord’ followed José Mourinho out the door at Old Trafford

Howard Gayle  of Liverpool (right) moves past Wolfgang Dremmler of Bayern Munich during the European Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, 22nd April 1981. Photograph: Keith Hailey/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Man City star confrontis the racism which blighted the career of players like Howard Gayle

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Matt Doherty (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring their late winner during Premier League win over Newcastle United. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images

Irishman headed in a winner in the dying seconds against 10-man home side

Shay Given: “You know what I’m like, I love the craic, the buzz around the lads. When you’re a coach, it’s tough if you lose, it is quite draining. But when you win, it’s mad, it’s magnified.” Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Former Ireland goalkeeper relishing his coaching role alongside manager Frank Lampard

Declan Rice: “Obviously the England-Ireland situation is a lot to take on. To be honest, I’m just focused on playing for West Ham.” Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters .

Exciting West Ham prospect expecting to meet the new Republic boss soon

New Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Stephen Kenny has earned his chance at an international job. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Throughout his career, the Dubliner has made the most of initially meagre resources

Northern Ireland fans. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Michael Walker: There were boos in the game of two Irelands, but humour too

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper  Darren Randolph saves a shot from Northern Ireland’s  Gavin Whyte during the friendly international at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper pulls off a number of quality saves to deny Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Tommy Wright is beaten by Alan McLoughlin’s shot  during the World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park on Wednesday, November 17th 1993. Photograph:   Joe St Leger

Alan McLoughlin’s goal secured a World Cup spot for Ireland on a tense night in Belfast

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich: “He knew the game inside out,” says the club’s former manager Carlo Ancelotti. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

Abramovich unable to witness in the flesh the side’s stylish progress under Sarri

 The Turf pub sign in Burnley  depicts an image of ex-player, Northern Ireland’s James McIlroy, who was instrumental to the club’s league title success in 1960. Photograph:  Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Jimmy McIlroy's innovation captured the tradition of brains over brawn in Irish soccer

Jimmy Hasty receiving  Dundalk FC’s footballer of the year award for 1965

Remarkable ex-Dundalk player became another tragic casualty of the Troubles

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill: “Irish rugby is so strong, producing players of a world level. It’s very difficult to then say ‘here’s a wee lad playing for Crusaders, watch him’.” Photograph:   Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

‘The Irish League still has the same format: two nights training and a game on Saturday.'

  Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was frustrated by his side’s late home defeat to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Response from some quarters to Chelsea defeat shows new confidence is brittle

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