Two pints then, inflatable unicorns now: Football comes home to a new world since it left in 1966, but Euro 2020 glory would capture same spirit for England

The date is September 3, 2021.

Fifty-four days have passed without a single drop of rain.

The No. 9 bus remains stuck and England fans live inside

Grown adults have Atomic Kitten as their alarm, but nobody’s been to work since the government threw an indefinite bank holiday.

Bukayo Saka is still missing, last seen in July, leaving Wembley on an inflatable unicorn.

Like the Prodigal Son, football could return home on Sunday after decades of squander.

True to the Bible tale, pints will fly, Rob Beckett will eat KFC, and Sweet Caroline will ring around the streets of England.

We present you: the lasting image of Euro 2020

But Neil Diamond’s popularity is just about the only thing football will recognise when it gets home.

Or if it likes the Rolling Stones, they’re somehow still gigging too.

Otherwise, England is a different place to 55 years ago, when the Three Lions won the World Cup.

Played out on black and white television, when humans were yet to reach the moon and a Manchester United season ticket cost £8.50, Sir Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick and Martin Peters grabbed the other as England overcame a last-minute equaliser to beat West Germany 4-2 in extra-time at Wembley.

England have never won a major tournament on colour TV

This time, as England face Italy in a shinier stadium on the same spot, trying to win Euro 2020, we can guarantee one thing: there will be no questions over whether the ball crossed the line.

Or, indeed, whether somebody’s toe is offside.

Football won’t recognise the game it finds when it gets home.

It may even wonder why we tampered with it so much without improving anything, and why players spend so much time on the floor.

Things were a little bit different before the final on July 30, 1966
What was all the fuss about, Bobby?

But some things are better, and there is reason for England’s heroes of 1966 to be envious of this era.

As mad as it sounds, this whole nationwide football fever thing didn’t really happen until the final in ‘66.

And even then, coverage of the match occupied just three of eight columns on a single page of the Daily Telegraph on the day.

This Sunday will be treated as one of the biggest days in the history of English sport, whereas on the morning of the ’66 final, Nobby Stiles attended mass, while Sir Bobby Charlton and Ray Wilson went shopping.

A spot of cricket was a tradition for the ’66 lot

Earlier that week, after England beat Portugal in the semi-final, manager Sir Alf Ramsey restricted them to two celebratory pints, following some over-indulgence earlier in the tournament.

We can only imagine what Harry Kane’s nutritionist would make of that.

“Gentleman,” Stiles once recalled the legendary boss saying. “Congratulations on a fine performance and on making the final.

“Tonight you may have two pints – and I mean two pints.

The final was such a big deal England’s players were only allowed the two pints beforehand

“Not like last Saturday after the Argentina game when some of you were rat-a****.

“Not tonight, gentlemen. Just two pints because on Saturday you are going to win the World Cup.

“And when you do I shall see to it that you are permanently p******.”

It’s hard to imagine the likes of Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton messing around on inflatable unicorns at the state-of-the art St George’s facilities.

We have a feeling these lot were better at golf

Rather than water volleyball, the ‘66 lot preferred a game of cricket or golf after training, and kept that tradition on the day before the final, along with a trip to the cinema.

Don’t let any of them see Saka’s attempt at a golf swing.

The 19-year-old and his teammates are, quite rightly, national heroes and household names, who will soon be set for life, both in fame and wealth, thanks to football.

All the ‘66 players got for winning the World Cup was £1,000 each and an impromptu parade down Edgware Road followed by a low-key meal at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

If only they knew how long it would be before we could party again

Three of them – manager Ramsey, star player Bobby Charlton and hat-trick hero Hurst – were elevated to knighthood, but history hasn’t remembered the others quite so well.

The scenes if England win on Sunday will dwarf what those guys got in ‘66, even though, and don’t say this too loudly, it’s slightly less momentous.

But when we sing about football coming home, it’s not about the size of the trophy, or where it was born, or whose dog found the Jules Rimet.

It’s regaining a lost feeling of unity and pride. No more ‘when’s the Premier League back’ during the international break.

It’s remembering the joy the England football team can bring an entire nation – or experiencing it for the first time.

This is what modern football looks like – and we love it all the same

The kind which makes kids cry tears of joy when they get their hero’s shirt, or which makes hardened football fans belt out Atomic Kitten with no shame.

It doesn’t look the same, but regardless of what happens on Sunday, Gareth Southgate and his humble class of talented, inspirational role models have found football.

And they’ve already brought it home.

England vs Italy in the Euro 2020 final is LIVE on talkSPORT tonight. We will bring you all the build-up, expert analysis, the latest team news and interviews from the Three Lions camp, plus exclusive commentary from Wembley.