A football-mad army sergeant will fulfil his dream of playing at Wembley on Sunday, as part of a military band that will perform a fanfare before the Euro 2020 final.
Phil Dickson, Band Sergeant Major of the Coldstream Guards band, said performing at the stadium in front of a global audience was “just fantastic”.
The clash between England and Italy at 8pm will be in front of 60,000 fans inside the arena, and millions are expected to be watching in pubs and at home around the nation.
The fanfare will last only 21 seconds and be set against pyrotechnics, stadium lighting and the roar of the crowds.
Mr Dickson, 48, said: “It’s just fantastic that I’m going to be there for the final and now knowing that England got the right result and will be too, is incredible.
“I’m so proud to be representing the Band of the Coldstream Guards, at Wembley, in an England final, to a global audience.
“It really doesn’t get much better than this.”
Mr Dickson will be one of six professional military musicians who will perform ahead of the historic game.
He said the biggest challenge for the sextet would be keeping to time against the noise of the spectators, but that their “professional training” would ensure this was not a problem.
“The match organisers have said the fanfare needs to last for precisely 21 seconds,” he said.
“We’ll be socially distanced, there’ll be pyrotechnics, lighting, the roar of the arena, so hearing each other and seeing each other so we can keep synchronised is not an option, so that’s where the professional training comes in.
“This is what we do, adapting and rising to the challenge is part and parcel of being in the army, so no matter how big the event, the moment that tunic and bearskin goes on, you know you’re performing, and it just brings out the best in everyone.”
Mr Dickson and his fellow musicians in the Band of the Coldstream Guards have played at several big and historic events previously, including at Times Square, New York in the aftermath of 9/11.
But he says the fanfare to welcome Gareth Southgate’s men and their opponents will be a career highlight.
“I was sat behind the goal at the Euro 96 semi-final match against Germany when Gareth Southgate lost the penalty,” he said.
“I was absolutely gutted. But I always believed the team could come through.”
He added: “While previous teams have always looked back and been conscious of defeat, this one is looking forward and focused on winning.
“That’s the attitude we have in the Army and when I see how Gareth Southgate is leading his team, leading from the front, it resonates with how we do things.
Ahead of the match Mr Dickson predicts a “clean and decisive” victory for England.
“It’s been a long wait,” he said.
“I’d like England to win convincingly with that passion we’ve seen building throughout this competition.
“A 3-0 victory, clean, decisive with no extra time and no penalties.”