A Cumbrian football fan who watched the Euro 2020 final at Wembley said it was an “unbelievable” occasion – despite the heartbreaking result for England.

Craig Coulthard was among a group of supporters from Carlisle who cheered on Gareth Southgate’s side against Italy.

The men said it was an experience they will never forget.

And they were glad to avoid most of the ugly scenes outside the ground which tarnished the build-up to the final, which England lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Craig, 32, had already attended the last-16 victory over Germany and was in a group of eight Cumbrians who bagged tickets for Sunday’s final last Friday morning.

He described the unique experience of final day in the capital.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve not seen anything like it. So many people.

“We went down on Saturday, and on the Sunday morning had a little wander around London. Everywhere was packed and bouncing wherever you went.

“We went to Baker Street and the pub there was crazy. Our old friend [former Carlisle United player] Harry McKirdy was actually in the boozer as well…

“We saw a couple of other Carlisle flags too, and Wembley Way was absolutely heaving.

News and Star: The Cumbrian fans on a packed Wembley Way ahead of the finalThe Cumbrian fans on a packed Wembley Way ahead of the final

“I think I’ll look back at it all in a few days’ time and think how unbelievable it was – but right now it’s just disappointing because of the way the game ended.”

Craig, his brother Mark and six friends managed to avoid getting caught up in the worrying scenes that developed outside the ground, with a number of ticketless fans forcing their way past stewards and into the stadium.

There were also reports of crushes developing outside some of the entrances.

Craig said: “We thought we’d get into the ground at about 6pm, a couple of hours’ kick-off.

“Wembley Way was really good, everyone having a good time, even though you always get a few idiots throwing beer and whatnot.

“We showed our Covid status and got through the gates at the right time, and I think we were lucky. It seemed to all kick off after we got in. I don’t think they could handle the numbers that were there.

“When we were in the ground there were people standing on the stairways. One lad was boasting to us that he’d got in without a ticket and saying his mates had got in too.

“We were fine and had great seats, just behind the penalties, but you could see lower down there were hundreds of people standing wherever they wanted.

“It’s not what you expect from a big final – I’d been to France in 2016 and there were security fences around the stadium so that sort of thing couldn’t happen.

“But I don’t want to think about all that too much. We had a brilliant day and the atmosphere was unbelievable, singing Sweet Caroline before the game – and then when Luke Shaw scored.

News and Star: The fans inside Wembley ahead of the Italy gameThe fans inside Wembley ahead of the Italy game

“When we scored those goals against Germany I couldn’t remember celebrating a goal quite like that. Then Shaw stuck it in the back of the net against Italy and it was crazy again – so good.”

Craig, though, said there were no complaints about the result given the way Italy fought back.

On the dramatic 3-2 penalty shoot-out, he said: “You looked at that Italian goal, and that keeper [Gianluigi Donnarumma] looked about 9ft tall. How are you gonna score past him…?

“When Jordan Pickford saves and Harry Maguire bangs it in, you start to believe.

“But it’s England – these things happen.

“The mood after the penalties was really calm. Losing on penalties is awful but the players got a good reception. Lots of fans had stayed to applaud them.”

Craig said he and his friends encountered no problems in leaving the ground and, on the train home, reflected on their experience of watching England’s first major tournament final since 1966.

“There was a bit of a wait for the Tube, but that’s expected,” he said, "although it was a bit hard turning round and seeing the arch lit up in Italian colours.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to three semi-finals [including the 2018 World Cup and Nations League in 2019], had a really good tournament and took an Italy team to penalties after they’d been unbeaten for ages.

“Southgate is still the man – every game people questioned him but pretty much everything he did paid off. And when you look at past England tournaments, it’s no comparison.”