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Karen Carney column: Experiencing Euro 2020 as a pitchside reporter

Dates: 11 June-11 July. Venues: Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville, St Petersburg. Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details.

At Euro 2020 I have the best job in the world – apart from the England players and Gareth Southgate.

I’ve been reporting for BBC Radio 5 Live from pitchside at Wembley and I stand directly behind the goal, a little to the right. I’m in such a privileged position.

It was emotional seeing Raheem Sterling score against Croatia because I was so close to him. He’s had a tough season so you could see what it meant; I get goosebumps just speaking about it.

He looked sharp in the warm-up, his touches were on point. Someone called me afterwards and asked why I was celebrating so hard because I’m used to seeing those moments as an England player – but I will always be a fan.

It makes me constantly realise why I fell in love with football and why I love what I do.

I threw Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the ball the other day! He came over and the ball boy wasn’t switched on so I did his job.

England keeper Jordan Pickford has asked me to give him timings in the warm-ups a few times too. I am ball girl, assistant and cones girl – whatever anyone needs – as well as being a pundit.

I have joked with a few people I know within the England set-up that I’m the lucky charm and especially Raheem’s…

Pickford’s communication, Walker’s advice and Sterling’s leadership

Karen Carney celebrating England's goals
Karen Carney was standing behind the goal as Raheem Sterling scored the winner against Croatia and when Harry Kane got England’s second against Germany at Wembley

When I’m in the commentary box during the Premier League season, I’m a lot higher up and I see things a little differently. Now I’m pitchside I get to see how Pickford communicates with his backline, I can hear what the players are saying to each other.

Against Germany, I was trying to see where the spaces were from my pitch view. I saw Thomas Muller coming into little pockets and we looked slightly nervous to be on the front foot and aggressive. Then we fixed it and you could see how it helped.

I could see Jack Grealish was coming in really narrow and Luke Shaw was playing higher up and that led to the goal. I didn’t see Shaw as much defensively in the first half due to my positioning but in the second half I was able to see him in an attacking sense.

He seems quite a quiet player in comparison to the rest of the backline, but then Pickford, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier have effectively been together since 2018.

Pickford is very vocal. You can see that he shouts a lot and rightly so. I always think the best goalkeepers are the ones who organise in front and that’s the same with the defenders. If they do that properly, they shouldn’t have to do anything as it should never get to them.

Karen Carney at Wembley for England's win over Germany
Karen has been reporting for BBC Radio 5 Live from Wembley during the tournament

During the game on Tuesday you could see Stones and Pickford discussing stuff. They have different views at times. Stones wants to receive the ball and play out from the back, Pickford often wants to go long and doesn’t want to have opposition pressure build near England’s goal, and I understand that. Sometimes you can see them discussing it back and forth.

Pickford seemed to trust Stones more against Germany and I felt that was why we started to get into the game in the first half. Stones was receiving the ball and being brave in possession. It calmed everyone else down.

Walker has been sensational too. He has a good connection on the pitch with Trippier. The whole dynamic of the backline is really good and you could tell they know each other well.

Against the Czech Republic, Bukayo Saka was amazing the whole game but switched off once and lost his runner. Walker went straight over to him and communicated and guided him. Saka’s a young player and constantly learning.

Up front, Sterling makes a lot of unselfish runs. I don’t see him shouting a lot but not too many players do. Harry Kane does but the main communicators are at the back.

Sterling leads by example on the ball. Sometimes people think the ones who shout a lot are brave but sometimes bravery is picking up the ball, driving at players and being positive.

When Germany’s Muller went through one-on-one for his big chance, it was Sterling who gave the ball away. He fell to his knees straight away. Declan Rice and Trippier picked him up and were like ‘let’s go again’. It was a brief moment where he was down but his team picked him back up.

How the Wembley crowd have helped England

England players celebrate
England players celebrated with the crowd at Wembley after scoring against Germany in their last-16 tie

The crowd were amazing in that Germany game. Maybe in the past we have all taken going to football for granted – players, fans and the media. Did we forget that football was about moments and being there for those occasions?

Everyone in that stadium knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you could feel it. The atmosphere has been really good at every game but Tuesday felt different.

You saw Walker geeing the fans up and everyone felt together. Rice was shouting at the crowd too and you could see he was buzzing.

When players are positive, put crosses into the box or when Sterling drives at defenders and even when Pickford makes a fantastic save, they are the moments which have got the fans going.

And it’s clear this England group has real personality. There’s character, swagger, confidence – and you can see they are together.

There’s something about them which feels a bit special.

Karen Carney was speaking to BBC Sport’s Emma Sanders. You can read her column on the BBC Sport website and app every month.

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