A week after what might have been, England’s attention is already starting to turn towards what might be in Qatar at next year’s World Cup. In sport as well as politics, a week is a long time.
The pain of the penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the final of the European Championship has largely dissipated, replaced by a genuine optimism that Gareth Southgate and his young team can use their recent experience to go one better next autumn.
“When you leave a tournament you feel extremely emotional,“ said Carl Todd, a consultant osteopath and a key figure in England’s medical team for the past 16 years. “But within a few days you pick yourself up, you think of the positives and think, ‘we go again'.
“I am quietly confident about our chances in Qatar. We have some fantastic players. We have a young squad so the future is terrific.
"When you think about it, all of our players will play a whole season for their clubs, have a proper holiday next year which they haven’t had for a couple of years, they would have had a proper pre-season, and they are going to go into a tournament four months into a new season relatively fresh. We have never experienced that going in to a tournament. It is incredibly exciting.”
Gareth Southgate has always highlighted that for him his 'team' is not just the 26 players in the squad, but everyone involved in the set-up which has coalesced into a unit whose bond is well-nigh unbreakable.
The medics and the fitness staff certainly played their part at the Euros. Every player remained fit. Not one muscle injury was reported. After seven weeks of high intensity football and training that was a remarkable accomplishment.
And Todd, 51, firmly believes that there is no limit to what England can achieve.
“We finished fourth in the 2018 World Cup, third in the Nations League, and second in the Euros. So there is a clear progression. Where will it end? I am ever the optimist!”
In his long involvement with England, Todd has taken part in four World Cups and three European Championships, serving under six managers - Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McLaren, Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson, Sam Allardyce and latterly since 2016, Gareth Southgate. Todd sees at first hand the pressures that an England football manager is under in the quest for success. Each has dealt with it in their own way. The common denominator for each was their drive and ability to inspire.
Understandably he will not be drawn into comparisons. “I have had a lot of managers in my career and Gareth is up there with the very best, simply an outstanding man,” said Todd.
“He has created an environment where people want to be part of a family,” he added.
Carl Todd celebrates Champions League success with Chelsea's Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell
“As we know he places great weight on values, integrity and belonging; these are the three things that really stand out; those values, taken together, equal performance.
“He is very genuine, decent, honest and open. What you see is what you get - a superb man manager, with the ability to listen and to communicate.”
What about this group of players? Where do they stand? “Every group I have worked with has been tight and together. The current group, apart from one or two, are very young and have played together in the younger age groups for England, under 17s, under 18s and under 21s. They have been together for quite a few years. They have come into this environment and embraced the team philosophy. They have bought into it, the staff have bought in to it. Now we have a tight-knit community.”
After 10 years in the armed forces, in 1996 Todd took a resettlement course, part of which was learning about sports injuries. He started working with a military physiotherapist who encouraged him to pursue osteopathy which led to a degree at Oxford Brooks University in 1999. He has gone on since to gain a degree in sports medicine and a PhD in clinical science and orthopaedics.
His route to England was somewhat fortuitous. While studying he became involved in local sports teams in Wiltshire, where he lives, as well as individual athletes. A patient he treated for a back problem in Swindon turned out to be Steve Slattery, a masseur with England under Glenn Hoddle. Todd was recommended to Gary Lewin, the former England physiotherapist and was invited to a meeting in 2005 at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester. It provided his big break.
“I had been quite nervous on the way up,“ Todd recalled. “When I got there I sat in the car park and thought, 'I am here for a reason, I have some skills they want, so let's go for it'.
“The first professional player I treated was Ashley Cole. I saw three or four players – the last was David Beckham, the captain at the time. The feedback must have been positive. At the end of that evening I was wheeled in to meet Sven and the coaching staff and it was decided that I would work for them.”
That was the start of a distinguished career which also involves Chelsea whom he joined in 2009 again as a consultant, dovetailing his commitments to club and country with that of his burgeoning private practices in London and the south west of England.
Italy v England player ratings
He is in such demand that now he is off to Tokyo with Team GB for the Olympics. None of it would be possible without the support of his wife Mel and his three sons. “I couldn’t do this without them. I owe them a lot,” Todd continued.
What was the view from inside the camp looking out during the frenzy of the Euros? “We weren’t really aware of what was going on. You have social media but a lot of people didn’t use it. We were quite protected in the environment at St George’s Park. There was one stage when I had to leave the camp for a few days as my father-in-law passed away.
“It wasn’t until I stepped out and had the car radio on that I realised the impact it was having, how much hype was building. I had to switch it off! When we set off to London for the final I have never seen so many people lining the road with banners and placards and cheering.
“I have never experienced that at that level in this country – so much adulation for the team. When we got off the coach in London at the hotel everyone was talking about it.”
So what about those penalties? “At 1-1 I couldn’t see us losing the game. In extra time none of the players were cramping up. Penalties are a horrible way to decide a tournament for any team. But next year is another chance. I shall be there. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of England for so long.”