Mike Rowbottom

Midway through last night’s Birmingham 2022 swimming session at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre the MC announced the result of the contest at Wembley Stadium that had just engaged the attention of almost 90,000 in person and a home television audience of more than 17 million.

Upon hearing the result, the audience packing the main stand in the arena let out a roar that was as loud as anything else heard on a tumultuous night of swimming action.

Waves from the 2-1 extra-time victory by England’s women footballers that secured the Euro 2022 title have spread far and wide across this green and pleasant land - and beyond.

That this landmark victory came against Germany - so often the bete noire for the men’s team since that almost mythic victory at the old Wembley to earn the 1966 World Cup - gave an even greater resonance to the celebrations.

In the wake of a result that reflected never-ending credit upon her abilities to plan, inspire and deliver, England’s Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman maintained that the home team’s Euro 2022 campaign, and culminating triumph, had permanently altered the way in which women and women’s sport were widely perceived.

Chloe Kelly salutes her extra-time winning goal for England against Germany in the women's Euro 2022 final at Wembley Stadium ©Getty Images
Chloe Kelly salutes her extra-time winning goal for England against Germany in the women's Euro 2022 final at Wembley Stadium ©Getty Images

"I think we really made a change," she said at a post-match press conference that was raucously interrupted by a conga of jubilant players singing the chorus to Three Lions, that song of hope created on the eve of the men’s 1996 European tournament hosted in England.

"I think this tournament has done so much for the game but also for society and women in society in England but I also think in Europe and across the world and I hope that will make a (bigger) change too," Wiegman said.

Those are huge claims - but if you accept that sport can genuinely affect society, there can rarely have been a more powerful agent for change than this ultimately successful home journey towards the goal which was so nearly achieved by the English men’s team at this same stadium last year.

That campaign, co-ordinated by the sane and decent Gareth Southgate, espoused and exemplified similar values, albeit that the behaviour of some England followers before, during and after shamed the hosts.

The point made by so many yesterday, in conversation, on social media, was the lack of that hideous element that has so long been a part of the men’s game.

Yesterday’s Wembley crowd, with a larger than usual proportion of females and children, had an innocent joy about it. There was no thuggery, no ugly undertone.

It recalled the gatherings at what is now known as the London Stadium which witnessed the London 2012 Paralympic athletics. The chants before home sprinter Jonnie Peacock’s victory in the T44 men’s 100 metres - “Pea-cock! Pea-cock! Pea-cock!” - were touchingly unschooled, as were the celebrations that greeted this latest landmark victory.

Here in a Commonwealth Games host city spectators congregating in Centenary Square and Brindley Place to watch the action on big screens that have been relaying action from various venues greeted the result with noisy glee - but as one seasoned sporting observer noted, not with showers of beer thrown into the air. It wasn’t that kind of party.

There were so many things to treasure from yesterday’s football final. From the England point of view, there was the insouciance of Ella Toone’s lob to put the home side ahead in the 62nd minute after being released on the German goal by a perfectly timed through ball from Keira Walsh.

There were echoes here of Bobby Moore’s ice-cool releasing pass in the closing seconds of extra-time in the 1966 final that set his clubmate Geoff Hurst en route to his historic hat-trick.

From the German point of view there was the speed and mastery of the right-wing move which preceded Lina Magull’s lethal near-post flicked equaliser with 11 minutes of normal time remaining.

Fans flock to Trafalgar Square today to pay tribute to the victorious England women footballers ©Getty Images
Fans flock to Trafalgar Square today to pay tribute to the victorious England women footballers ©Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of victory, as England’s players cavorted in joy around their jubilant coach, captain Leah Williamson found time to crouch and comfort the tearful young German midfielder Lena Oberdorf.

Again, the sporting echoes came - this time of Freddie Flintoff’s solicitous word for Australia’s crestfallen Brett Lee after England had earned a dramatic victory by two runs in the second Ashes Test of 2005 just down the road from here at Edgbaston.

"It's really, really nice to see what we saw today when we came into the stadium how enthusiastic everyone was and how the fans have stood behind us," Wiegman added after the cavorting champions had conga-ed out again.

Meanwhile Tube trains rumbled away from Wembley down the Metropolitan and Jubilee Lines jammed with men wearing England shirts bearing the names of women footballers.

That feels like a significant sporting - and a significant societal - change. 

Today Trafalgar Square is thronged with jubilant fans who have gathered to pay further tribute to the pride of Lionesses. Now that football has come home, home is taking on a different look and feel.