When Bukayo Saka stepped onto the pitch at White Hart Lane on Sunday, a weird hush descended on the home fans before a few claps turned into a rousing round of applause. Slightly dumbstruck, he returned the favour.
Sure, it was a friendly game, but Sp*rs fans welcoming an Arsenal player like that is the type of thing you expect when hell freezes over.
Weirdly, it felt natural.
How can anyone not like the 19-year-old kid who squeezed into England’s squad for the Euros then smiled his way to the final while dazzling with the ball at his feet and a unicorn inflatable between his legs?
That the chapter ended with him reduced to tears and subjected to online abuse after his penalty miss sealed Italy’s triumph over England was horribly unfair. Nobody should have to experience that, certainly not a teenager.
If the outpouring of love and support in the aftermath of the final allayed most of the fears that rival supporters could use the incident against him this season, last weekend’s experience put them to bed once and for all.
Back at Arsenal, Saka will likely be involved in the season opener at Brentford and he has the backing of his manager to use this summer’s experience to continue to improve.
“I think it’s now part of him and his history as a football player,” said Mikel Arteta.
“That scar is going to be there. He’s taking a lot from that. He’s going to use it in the future for certain.”
“I think the response he had from the football world, it was overwhelming and fully deserved,” added the Spaniard.
“He is a kid that really cares for everybody, that loves what he does. When you just engage with him or you spend some time with him, he gets on you emotionally and you can see the reaction that everybody had with him.
“I’m glad that after that penalty, which wasn’t what he wanted for sure, the reaction that the world had with him was probably even more powerful.”
So, will Brentford fans applaud him tonight? “I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” said Arteta.