EXCITEMENT is building among football fans across north Essex ahead of England’s semi-final showdown in the Euros tonight.

The Three Lions, managed by Gareth Southgate, will take on Denmark at Wembley Stadium in front of 60,000 spectators eager to witness history.

If captain Harry Kane and Co overthrow the resilient Danes, they will book their place in the final of a major tournament for the first time since 1966 - the year England won the World Cup.

Having yet to concede a goal across the first five games, England’s defence could prove tough for Denmark to break down, but could their renewed determination following the on-pitch collapse of star-player Christian Eriksen prove the difference?

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

For the national team’s last-16 match against Ukraine Ray Pemberton, 57, of Clacton, embarked on a bike pub crawl alongside a group of his friends.

The Leeds United supporter believes the Three Lions have enough to not only defeat Denmark, but also lift the trophy.

He said: “We are going to win 2-0 tonight and then 1-0 in the final. If we do win it will be crazy and the atmosphere will be amazing.”

“I am a big England fan and Kalvin Phillips is the best player, because the best ones come from the north.”“Tonight I will be watching the game with my girlfriend at home and if we win I will celebrate with a coffee and a cake.”

Pubs across north Essex will be showing the 8pm crunch match and there will also be a Nightflix cinema screen at the Tollgate Centre Shopping Park, Stanway, which guests can view for free.

David Brady, landlord at The Alma in Copford, said people’s superstitions have come to the fore and he expects more than 90 fans at his pub tonight.

“People are funny,” he said.

“They wore red socks for the last game and now have to wear them for this one. They all have to sit in the same place at the pub and drink the same beer.

“I’ve got my normal trade and now a couple of extra people who came from somewhere to watch the first game and now have to come back or risk cursing it.

“It’s going to be a great evening though, a really exciting one. After all these lockdowns the country needs a lift and the England boys have been doing it for everybody.

“We had 80 or 90 people watching here on Saturday evening and they all rebooked immediately so we will have them plus the extra bookings on top which should make a great night.

“This tournament has obviously been a lot more different with various restrictions but the excitement is still there and the elation when a goal is scored – there’s just less beer spilt for the staff to clean up afterwards.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Jason Smedley, 50, owner of My Big Fat Greek Taverna, Clacton, also expects his venue to be fully booked by the time kick-off comes around.

He said: “After such an awful 18 months watching the happiness on everyone’s face during the last game was incredible and it was just a raft of normality.

“Everyone was so respectful of social distancing and we managed to celebrate, sing, and enjoy the evening.

“We are looking forward to making memories with our guests and if we make it passed Denmark then I am quietly confident that football will be coming home.

“I think the easing of restrictions has helped our income so the feel good factor from what England have achieved has been invaluable.”

J Duncan, manager at seafront bar Tom Peppers, says even though tables are allocated on a first-come first-served basis and social distancing is in place, the atmosphere has been just as enthralling.

“It has been different but still a massively enjoyable experience for us showing the Euros this summer,” he said.

“After the games, echoes of It’s Coming Home can be heard from all about the town.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

“We are expecting another busy one tonight and hopefully a bumper Sunday if England can make the final.

“We have our fingers crossed England pull it off and spread some happiness to our staff and customers.”

But there may not be so much harmony in every household.

Torben Simpson, 54, of Colchester, whose mother is Danish, will also be rooting for the Danes, despite his wife Elizabeth, 52, backing England.

But the couple said while they “won’t fall out over the match, there will be a bit of banter on the night”.

Mr Simpson said he was “firmly” supporting Denmark, with their three children – aged 19, 18 and 13 – divided between the teams.

Mrs Simpson, who is supporting England, said: “We’ve got a team in the final either way, so we are happy.

“It’ll be a big, big night in our house.”

Mr Simpson added: “The middle child has been going around the singing It’s Coming Home which raises a wry smile. But there is something extra driving Denmark in this match.”

And at the Great Danes shop in Frinton, a party is due to be staged to cheer the Denmark team.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Essex Police has also urged fans to behave.

A spokesman said: “Ahead of the Euro 2020 semi-final between England and Denmark tonight, we are urging fans to enjoy the game and show support for Gareth Southgate’s side but to do it safely once again.

“It is clear to us the vast majority of fans across the county have been enjoying the football responsibly – indeed we have only had to police a small number of incidents since the beginning of the tournament.

“As has been the case for each England match throughout Euro 2020, We will have focused patrols at key times before, during and after the match.”