First published by thetilehurstend.sbnation.com

Heartbreak once is bad enough, but going through it all over again is just… hard to come to terms with. For England fans, particularly young ones like me that don’t remember Euro ‘96 let alone Italia ‘90, watching the Three Lions get so close – only to fall at the final hurdle – is a new experience.

Sure, there were the gutsy quarter-final efforts of the Sven Goran Eriksson era, going out to Brazil in 2002, Portugal in 2004 and Portugal again in 2006. But that feels a long time ago when more recent years have seen failure to qualify for Euro 2008 and embarrassing exits in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

The sense of nation-wide disillusionment that had begun to surround the England team – and just how much of a break from that Gareth Southgate’s side is – created a feeling of plucky, defiant optimism that almost feels alien.

Comparing that to Reading’s most recent, perhaps most poignant, heartbreak takes a bit of a stretch, but the parallels are there. After years of mounting disillusionment following the club’s relegation from the Premier League, the Royals got to Wembley in the face of all the odds. That team was hard to love at times – outright entertainment was at a premium and thrashings away from home were too common – but it reminded us what it felt like to actually win.

When Reading used to win, by hook or by crook Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

That restoration

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