GARETH Southgate doesn’t have to cast his mind back too far to recall a time of England supporters throwing insult and objects at the players – and that was on a good day.

But when before there were insults, now there are selfies and smiles, as this group of players have managed to reconnect the public with their national team.

It might all go wrong tomorrow in terms of the World Cup when England take on Colombia; however, even if the tournament does end after one knock-out game, something almost as important will be won.

Michael Owen said that he had found watching England to be a chore since 2006. He is hardly alone. The Three Lions haven’t so much roared as bored. Things do seem a lot different now.

Much, if not all, of this is down to Southgate whose own personality, he is a laid-back, nice bloke, has flown throughout the squad who when before seemed to have a wall between them and the ordinary support, now there is an openness which has not been there since maybe Terry Venables’s time in 1996.

“The players have been able to change perceptions of how an England team might play,” said the manager. “We mustn’t lose sight of that.

“Ten months ago we qualified for the World Cup by beating Slovenia and people were throwing paper aeroplanes on to the pitch at Wembley. We were driving back to our hotel after beating Malta with some obscene chants being thrown at us from supporters.

“I feel like we’ve started to connect the team with the public again. I feel like we’ve created excitement like we’ve played in a style that has really shown an expression of what young English players are capable of, and I want us to continue doing that.”

England have a difficult game against Colombia in Moscow, even more so if James Rodriguez is fit to play and all signs are that the Bayern Munich man has recovered from an injury.

That match is massive. Should England reach the quarter-finals, it would be viewed, rightly so, as success and then it’s Switzerland or Sweden for a place in the last four for the first time in 28 years.

“I really believe in the group of players we have got,” said Southgate. “They are young. They are inexperienced. For some of them, this will be one of the biggest games they’ll have been involved in - but maybe not the biggest. We’ve always got to keep that in context for the players.

“I think we’ve played really well. We didn’t create as many outstanding opportunities against Belgium, but we had a couple. So I think the style of play and the interchange of positions of our forward players in particular has been really good.

“We’ll just keep working at what we’ve been doing, and keep creating the chances we have. We’ve got guys who have shown they will finish those chances if we make them.”

With captain and talisman Harry Kane about, England will always have a chance against even the strongest competition.

The superstar from Tottenham Hotspur is world class, the best No9 his country has produced since the great Alan Shearer. And with five goals from two games, he has announced himself on the world stage.

“It’s what the World Cup’s all about, all the big players stepping up for their country and I’m proud to be a part of that,” Kane told the English FA website. I feel confident, as a striker, when you’re scoring and the ball is going in off your heel, you just want to be on the pitch.

“It was good to finish the season strongly and be able to take that into the internationals, scoring in the friendly [Nigeria] and then in the first two games at the World Cup. It’s now about continuing that and I’m hoping to do it over the next two, three or four games.

“For me, it’s just about controlling everything I can and making sure I’m as fit, healthy and recovered as I can be for each game.

“I’m coming into it [Colombia] off the back of a hat-trick and it’s a very important game for us.”