From Brazil to Wembley - Leeds United and England coming good at same time for city's much-travelled Three Lions fanatic

IT'S Coming Home, and so too is the Yorkshire Evening Post's England fanatic Steve Riding.
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Tomorrow's trip to the Euro 2020 final at Wembley will be a rather shorter journey than the jaunts Riding is used to.

Brazil, Russia, all across Europe, the 69-year-old has followed his country all around the globe - without the Three Lions ever making a final.

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Until now that is - 55 years after watching England win the 1966 World Cup as a 14-year-old boy alongside his dad at home in Leeds.

WISH YOU WERE HERE: Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Steve Riding, centre, has clocked up some serious air miles supporting England, including two trips to Brazil, above.WISH YOU WERE HERE: Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Steve Riding, centre, has clocked up some serious air miles supporting England, including two trips to Brazil, above.
WISH YOU WERE HERE: Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Steve Riding, centre, has clocked up some serious air miles supporting England, including two trips to Brazil, above.

After clocking up air miles of which Judith Chalmers would have been proud, Riding could ironically see England finally lift a major international tournament trophy in person on English soil.

Yet the Yorkshireman says his country will be proud of Gareth Southgate's side whatever happens in tomorrow's final against Italy and win or lose the YEP photographer is already planning for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

If England win Euro 2020 then great. If not, it's on to the next, and either way, die-hard Three Lions fan Riding will be there.

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"The outcome of Sunday's final won't make any difference to me going to the games or anything," explained Riding.

"It's a final and Italy are a good side although Spain made them look average in the semi finals.

"They started looking a bit tired towards the end and I think our young players will run around all day. I'm optimistic that we can win it.

"Being in the final is good but winning it would be like one of those moments - 'when I was there.'

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"All your life you would be able to say 'I was there' - and I've already got my ticket.

"But if we get beat I think it will be like when we got beat by Croatia in the 2018 World Cup in Russia when all the players came and applauded the fans and vice versa and even if we get beat I am convinced the team will get a great reception.

"If we won it and we could have a bit of a homecoming like when we won the Ashes and things like that it would be absolutely marvellous."

Initially, things were looking rather less marvellous for Riding upon his first venture abroad to watch England play.

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The YEP photographer fell in love with football during Leeds United's glory era under Don Revie and trips to Wembley for cup finals became almost yearly visits.

It sparked a bug to watch England in the same stadium and then abroad, starting with a trip flying solo to Spain for the 1982 World Cup.

Riding recalled: "I went into the estate agents at Chapel Allerton said 'can you get me a flight to Spain' and they said 'we can get you one to Malaga.' I knew they were playing in Madrid and I thought I'll get to Madrid, as you do."

Riding did get to Madrid, but not without complication.

"I missed the bloody bus to get there," he recalled.

"But I bumped into this fella who said there was a trip going from his hotel but he wasn't going.

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"I said 'what's the chances of me giving you the money and I tell everybody I am you?'

"He said 'great, just bring me a programme back for my son' so I said 'definitely' so I got to see the game."

Riding estimates that he has been in the stands of around 150 England games since.

A member of the England Supporters' Club, it means Riding's ticket for tomorrow's final has only cost 95 euros, ten euros more than his admittance to the semi-final against Denmark.

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Even now, the photographer is making plans for the next major international tournament that follows Euro 2020 and fully intends to continue supporting England in person home and away.

Just don't tell his wife.

"We have not had a holiday for two years and my wife reads these articles!" laughed Riding.

"She read the last one when I said I had spent about ten grand! But she's used to it now!

"I have already made plans to go to Qatar."

And maybe, just maybe, England will arrive in Qatar as European champions, and better still with a Leeds United player in their ranks in Kalvin Phillips.

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Riding has been thrilled with the progress of the Yorkshire Pirlo - and says there have been plenty of parallels between the Whites and Three Lions.

"England are so similar to Leeds United," explained Riding.

"They have had some strange managers and it's like Leeds United spent 16 years in the wilderness.

"England have never won anything in my adult life and you start thinking 'Is that it? Am I ever going to see England win anything and am I ever going to see Leeds United back in the Premier League?'

"Bizarrely enough, they have both come good at the same time."

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Thank you Laura Collins