THE aftermath of Euro 2020 has been a joy to behold.

It is not often that the ­ugliest Conservative government in ­decades is wrong footed and forced to back-track on what it thinks.

Of all the England footballers who have been thrust into the spotlight I have a ­special place for the Aston Villa and ­England centre-back, Tyrone Mings, who as the knotted yarn of history tells us was born in Bath, Somerset a mere mile or two from the resting place of the blogger Wings Over Scotland.

Such are the curious coincidences of life that Mings found himself in an elite ­England squad from the humblest of ­origins, playing for Chippenham Town whist working as a barman and then a local mortgage adviser before climbing a very steep ladder to eventually signing for Aston Villa, where he shares a home dressing room with Scotland’s John McGinn, the son of a teacher at St Columba’s High School, Clydebank who according to folklore threw comedian Kevin Bridges out of her class.

I like the place where humour and football meet and first became endeared to Mings when he smiled along with ­errant Scotland fans as he was being ­interviewed after their 0-0 draw in Euro 2020. As ­Mings stood in front of the compulsory sponsors’ board, to be interviewed, ­Scotland fans tried to unsettle him with a rousing chorus of “Shite Grant Hanley, You’re Just a Shite Grant Hanley”. Mings smiled along and waved his fond farewell to the Tartan Army. It probably registered somewhere deep in his soul that he may indeed be a shite Grant Hanley.

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The joke was multi-layered. Both Mings and Hanley had entered the tournament as jobbing journeymen, miles from the starry firmament of Christian Ronaldo or Killian Mbappe. Neither had been ­guaranteed to play and even in their ­wildest dream had no great hopes of being standouts, let alone being interviewed in the rush of post-match media. Mings had to see off Harry Kane and Raheem ­Sterling to get noticed, Hanley had to nudge ahead of Andy Robertson and the upstart Billy Gilmour.

What Mings and Hanley illustrate is that stripped of stardom and hyperbole, football can be a mundane, local and grounded sport. It is a place where ­decency and emotional rivalry thrive and where relatively ordinary players can sometimes surprise themselves.

Any successful campaign to combat racism has to go beyond big tournament moments and dig into the deepest roots of the game, into amateur football, five-a-side and the semi-professional game.

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That is why I was glad it was Mings that landed the toughest punch this week, ­calling out the Conservative Party and the repellent home Secretary Priti Patel (above).

Mings is not part of football’s starry elite he is a relatively ordinary defender not blessed with miraculous skills or star quality.

Tweeting on his account @Official TM_3, Mings wrote “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the ­tournament by labelling our anti-­racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then ­pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, ­happens.”

It was a candid response to a shameless piece of grandstanding by Patel, who had earlier criticised the England players for taking the knee against racism, and then pulled on a Poundland England top to back her boys when the sniff of glory ­intensified.

We should not be hugely surprised by Patel’s brazenness. In England, the Home Secretary is tasked with law and order and with immigration policy across the UK. She is accustomed to playing to the right-leaning gallery.

What is extraordinary is how much ­Patel seems to relish her role as the ­guardian of the White Cliffs of Dover. ­Under her reign, some of the England team would not be in the UK and her own family would be in a holding pen ­awaiting deportation.

Mings’s undisguised critique of Patel was followed up by reported rumours that the England squad had turned down an offer to be garlanded at Downing Street. If true it reaffirms a deep split within English patriotism; on the one hand the multi-cultural squad that had represented the Flag of St George and on the other the bellicose and unpleasant rump of the Tory Party that had cheered Brexit to its current woeful state.

Whilst Mings’s barb was his own personal politics, the case of Marcus Rashford was closer to a community uprising.

In the aftermath of missing one of ­England’s penalties, Rashford and his team-mates Jadon Sancho and 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, were subjected to horrendous racist abuse. The Tories cannot be directly blamed for the onslaught but only they can answer whether their ­policies, their rhetoric and their shrill dog-whistling enabled racism to run rampant.

Not only were the three young players who missed the penalties black, they were a high-profile personification of the immigrant experience. Sancho is the son of a Trinidadian family, Rashford’s mother is from St Kitts and Saka is from a Nigerian family. They are all distant children of the Commonwealth, the union of nations that the Queen unsteadily reigns over and are all from the immigrant experience that Patel wishes to curtail or even repatriate. Saka in particular is from the cultural background that Boris Johnson has ­patronised in his smug and ­knowingly hateful newspaper ­columns. His ­Instagram feed was stained by ­orangutan emojis which the social media company have since admitted were not picked up by their technology.

READ MORE: 'Hypocrisy': Tory MP forgets about old tweet before attacking England player

Still young and relatively experienced as a footballer, Rashford has become an icon of opposition to the current government, by challenging the way their policies punish the poor. There was a chilling coincidence this week when a mural of Rashford in Manchester was defaced at almost the same time that a mural of George Floyd, was struck by lightning in Toledo, Ohio. Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis Police ­officer triggered the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests which influences the ­England team’s decision to take the knee before their matches.

What is more interesting about ­Rashford is not his role in global protest but his deep sense of community politics. He responded to the defacement of his mural with the resounding words: “I am Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that.”

His words had the same sense of ­local pride and rootedness that led to the ­Kenmure Street uprising against Patel’s deportation policies in May of this year.

THIS England team have had a memorable summer one that will be replayed in their minds for decades yet to come. Yes, there was the entirely predictable chaos and hooliganism, yes there was Gareth Southgate’s “Dear England” letter advancing the case for the squad’s right to protest and yes, sadly, there was his mumbling incoherence about the Blitz spirit.

There will be more to come when the England defender Harry Maguire returns to Mykonos to appeal his conviction for aggravated ­assault after being found guilty of ­assaulting police, verbal abuse, and ­attempted bribery.

No matter what emerges from Macguire’s unpleasant trip abroad a different England showed up at Euro 2020. I supported their consistent stance on racial injustice, but I am also capable of holding two ideas in my head simultaneously, I declined the inordinate pressure from the media to support England when the whistle blew.

That’s rivalry, that’s community.