Shropshire Star

They're coming home, but football isn't - Telford father and son reflect on their England journey in Qatar

A father and son from Telford have reflected on a "fabulous" time in Qatar, despite England's World Cup heartbreak.

Graeme and Dylan had a close-up view of both of Harry Kane's penalties, and Marcus Rashford's last-gasp free-kick attempt

Graeme Harley and son Dylan, from Priorslee, followed the Three Lions' journey from the start of the tournament, cheering them on at all three group games, the last 16 victory against Senegal and Saturday's quarter-final defeat to reigning champions France.

They have been sharing their pictures and stories with Shropshire Star readers throughout, and Graeme looked back one last time before they flew home.

One person who will be happy is Tracey Harley - Graeme's wife and Dylan's mum - as her men will be home in time for her birthday.

Graeme and Dylan had a close-up view of both of Harry Kane's penalties, and Marcus Rashford's last-gasp free kick attempt

Talking about the visitor experience and mixing with other fans, Graeme said: "We visited the Corniche area, which is in a bay with lots of eateries and places to sit and socialise. The setting was beautiful and the sun was shining as it does every day but the place was deserted.

"Whilst I 100 per cent respect the culture of Qatar, the fact remains that the majority of the worldwide football audience tend to socialise over a beer or a glass of wine but there was no drinking on the Corniche. Lots of seating areas designed for socialising but no people enjoying the sunshine and talking to their fellow fans.

"Alcohol is readily available but tends to be hidden inside hotels, so when the sun is shining, the only place to have a beer or a wine is inside. This did severely restrict the socialising between fans which is a real shame."

Harry Kane and his England team mates thank the travelling support

He added: "Other than that, Qatar could have done no more. The people were friendly and the organisation was super efficient - it was relatively easy to access and depart stadiums and all public transport was free.

"Thursday night we had the choice of seeing Robbie Williams for £125.00 a ticket or Julian Marley (Bob's son) for free, in the fan zone - sorry Robbie, we were loving Julian instead."

On England's fortunes, Graeme said: "Friday morning started with a high degree of optimism. Our group was asked if we genuinely believed that we would beat France. The response was unanimous. To validate this response we were then asked how many of us had looked at flights home on the Sunday/Monday - we all had. We were confident but not that confident!

A packed stadium witnessed England's defeat to France. Pictures: Graeme Harley

"I think we were the better side but ultimately France scored two goals from open play and when they gave us a gift, Harry Kane couldn't accept. The French looked scared to death when Bukayo Saka ran at them, so Jack Grealish seemed the obvious solution but too little too late.

"We have had a fabulous time and it is a real shame to leave early - it was in the bag and it is be hard to see us having a better chance to heal the 50+ years of hurt. Our players usually complain about being tired at the end of a long hard season but they can't use that one this time. Everything was in our favour and we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory."

The French team celebrate their first goal. Pictures: Graeme Harley

He added: "On a positive note, the majority of this team should still be together for USA/Canada/Mexico 2026 - so things can only get better. I hope Gareth stays at the helm as I can't think of anyone better and if the team want him to stay, then hopefully he will. He maybe just needs to be a little bit braver and make positive decisions sooner and then we will definitely bring it home next time.

"It's been a blast. I would like to say a big thank you to my friend Scott Kind - another Telford resident who is currently living in Qatar - it was great to have a friend to show us what to do and where to go."