IT hurts. It hurts so much.

For generations of football fans, this seemed like “the moment” – England finally winning a major tournament after all those years of hurt that are so often sung about.

To put it into context, when England lifted the World Cup in 1966, my Dad was five months old.

It seemed set up for us – a final on home soil backed by legions of fans having put together a memorable run through the tournament.

As it turned out, it wasn’t to be.

First of all, credit has to go to Italy. They have been the tournament’s stand-out team and it cannot be denied they deserved the victory at Wembley.

We had them on the ropes for the opening quarter after Luke Shaw’s early goal sent the whole country into a state of euphoria but after that, they gradually gained control.

It may have ended in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out, but they were the better side.

Debates will now be had as to whether England were too conservative – an age-old criticism of Gareth Southgate’s teams – in the second half as they sought to protect their lead.

They will also question the choice of penalty takers – was it right to send Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho straight into that kind of situation? Was it right to ask 19-year-old Bukayo Saka to take the final, make-or-break spot kick?

Arguments will go back and forth for some time about all of that, but what I’ll focus on is how proud I feel of Southgate and the players.

They have brought this nation together after a truly dark time and regardless of the final result, they have given us all something to smile about.

This is a young team with all the potential in the world and under Southgate’s increasingly astute leadership, they will come again.

Amongst the heartbreak and pride, however, there is more than a fair helping of shame.

It is a sad indictment of the times we live in that my first thought after Saka’s penalty was beaten away by Gianluigi Donnarumma was that when he, Sancho and Rashford opened their social media accounts, they would be met by a torrent of racial abuse.

It is completely unnecessary and absolutely sickening but the way social media is makes it all too easy for these vile trolls to thrive.

Empty words about not tolerating this kind of behaviour from governments and the Facebooks, Twitters and Instagrams of this world are meaningless. There has to be change and it has to happen now.

And then, there was the disgraceful scenes of ticketless “fans” storming their way into Wembley and the generally chaotic pictures from in and around London pre and post-match.

The will be called “football fans” in the reports that follow, but it is highly unfair to tar them with the same brush as the vast majority who behaved themselves.

The beautiful game’s ugly side was on full display and I am trying not to let that be my overriding memory of what should have been an night of celebration, win or lose.

I’ve enjoyed following this team through the tournament and they have given me some memories I will struggle to forget.

Bring on the World Cup next year!