City celebrates as Sheffield-born Jamie Vardy helps England beat Wales in Euro 2016
Sheffield's Jamie Vardy was one of England's heroes as the national team picked up their first win of Euro 2016.
The clamour for the former Stocksbridge Park Steels player in city centre bar Walkabout was almost as loud as the chanting when the striker finally appeared at half time.
And manager Roy Hodgson’s bold substitutions, bringing on Vardy and fellow striker Daniel Sturridge, paid off as both players scored in a 2-1 comeback win over Wales.
Those lucky enough to get into a full Walkabout created plenty of atmosphere before the game, with sing-alongs to football anthems such as Football’s Coming Home and Vindaloo.
Sally Elbertt, from Mosborough, was one of a number of fans questioning England’s starting lineup.
She said: “I think we’re going to win - and I think we’re going to smash Gareth Bale off the park. But I think Vardy should start.”
Friend James Legend, from Norton, added: “Why is (Raheem) Sterling starting? I’d have the same team, but I’d have brought Andros Townsend.”
With Wales having won their first match against Slovakia and England being denied three points by a last minute equaliser against Russia, the pressure was on Hodgson’s team to attack.
Despite a promising opening England couldn’t convert chances into goals, with Sterling missing a good chance from six yards out.
The atmosphere inside Walkabout quickly changed when Wales talisman Bale scored a free kick that England goalkeeper Joe Hart arguably should have saved. In a bar full of glum faces, the only celebration came from Welsh-born Sue Wingren, who celebrated wildly.
At half time, with Wales 1-0 up, the Crookes resident admitted she was feeling smug.
“They aren’t playing great, but it’s the goal that counts,” she said.
With Vardy and Sturridge brought on at half time, Sue said she wasn’t worried. But she probably should have been. Vardy scored the equaliser within 10 minutes and England were looking threatening. Chants of ‘Vardy’s on fire’ filled the bar and the floor was shaking.
Sheffield United fan Simon Tomlinson, from Shiregreen, said it reminded him of the Russia game, in which England dominated but couldn’t capitalise.
“We need to be more clinical in front of goal,” he said. “But we will be now Vardy’s on.”
Simon also had plenty of praise for former Blade Kyle Walker, who he said had been excellent so far.
With a few minutes left teenager Marcus Rashford was brought on, to cheers from the Sheffield crowd. But the atmosphere was tense as England struggled to find a winner.
Thankfully the gamble of playing with three strikers paid off. Sturridge danced through the Wales defence and poked a shot past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey with just a minute to go.
The celebrations were wild, with two-pint cups of beer flying about, and fans hugging and shouting. Wales fan Sue said she was ‘devastated’, but was confident her team could still qualify, with a parting shot of ‘you watch this space’.
For Lucy Macbeth, from Meersbrook, the win was a tonic to the disappointment of her team Sheffield Wednesday losing the Championship Play-off Final.
“It was brilliant,” she said, dancing on a bench between choruses of Football’s Coming Home. “It was such a win. I’m just so happy.
“We defended fantastically. They only had one shot and that was the one that went in.”
And Ruth Bannister, also from Meersbrook, admitted she wasn’t the biggest football fan but couldn’t help getting caught up in the feeling.
“I get quite excited when the internationals are on,” she said. “It’s a good atmosphere and I like that.”
England play their final group game against Slovakia at 8pm on Monday.