I remember when we were good we were very, very good…

When I say we I mean them

…and when I talk about them I mean this lot:

England team - Euro 96

Good up to a point of course, but for a moment there…

Expectations were high because England were hosting their first major football tournament since 1966, football as you know, was coming home.

As usual from the press, who then influence the fans, everybody was expecting the mighty all conquering England to come out with guns blazing and smite all those before them.

But as it always happens with these tournaments and something we always forget, is that England seem to always start out slowly. And because of this and because the first match against perceived lesser opposition and anything less than a total pounding… Which as we know now, it wasn’t:

“The hosts got underway with a Wembley fixture against the Swiss, and Alan Shearer, much criticised before the tournament for a 12 game England goal drought, gave England the lead by crashing home in typical style. But a nation’s hope of happy beginnings were dashed by Switzerland’s enterprising play. Grassi missed an open net before veteran Stuart Pearce handled in the box. Up stepped Kubilay Türkyilmaz to equalise with just seven minutes to go.”

There was another home nation team in the same group as England and in their first match they held the much fancied Holland to a goalless draw. Then the Netherlands beat the Swiss 2-0 which meant that for England and Scotland in their meeting, it was a must win for both…

The first half, as expected was a tense and tight affair. Scotland had managed to hold England and at half time with still no score, Terry Venables made some changes. Jamie Redknapp came on for Stuart Pearce and Anderton and McManaman swapped wings. They were going to for for it:

“Shearer’s goal from a Gary Neville cross seemed likely to be cancelled out by a penalty awarded for a foul on Gordon Durie. But Gary McAllister’s kick, not helped by the ball moving just before he kicked it, was saved by David Seaman. And once Jamie Redknapp came on for a brief but effective cameo, England started to dominate. Paul Gascoigne delivered the killer blow with a flick over Colin Hendry, sweetly-struck volley past Andy Goram and famous ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration.”

Ah yes the dentist chair…

The dentist chair celebration

As is with the tradition with the tabloids they go out and find every little piece of dirt that they can. Doesn’t help that the players themselves even though they must know something like this would leak out… Blase or naive I don’t know…

[For those too young to remember] What happened was that the England team took a pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong, to play a couple of easy warm up games, to relax before the serious business got under way. There was a relaxed policy on players drinking and one night a few of the England players went to a nightclub where they had this dentist chair set up. The attraction was that you were strapped into the chair and somebody pours drinks down your throat. Somebody took photographs of Paul Gascoigne and Teddy Sheringham having a go in the chair and surprise, surprise, these pictures ended up on the front pages of all the newspapers. The tabloids all demanded that Gazza be dropped from the tournament for this shameful exuberance.
Terry Venables, the England manager wasn’t going to be swayed by the red tops though. This sort of thing shouldn’t have happened, or at least news of it getting out. The players were admonished but kept their places.

Then in the Scotland game Gazza answered his critics by doing this:

After this sparkling performance, not just from Gascoigne but the whole team everybody was abuzz, but slightly nervous of the final group match against the Netherlands…

Now I don’t know if it’s just me or if you noticed this too… My perception is that every time ITV cover a match, England always seem to play like crap. It’s not just me is it ? No I thought not.

Everybody back in 1996 watched the Championships along with Des on the BBC, but there were some matches on the other side. You think ITV’s football presentation is poor now, have a look at what it was like back then:

ITV's coverage of England v Holland at Euro 96
[image source]

That’s right they had Bob Wilson (Anchorman ?) as well as the rapping John Barnes and the crooning Jackie Charlton. Luckily though they save themselves with the legendary Brian Moore on the mic doing the match commentary. But then they took all that back by putting Kevin Keegan next to him.

– Another thing you might not have heard (because as you know that one tune dominated everything) was ITV’s choice for their Euro ’96 coverage. They chose a traditional and very English hymn for their broadcasts. With vocalist Miriam Stockley and performed by Charlie Skarbek/Andy Davis with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, have a listen to their take on Jerusalem:

Jerusalem CD cover
» Jerusalem 96 (Traditional Lyrics)

» Jerusalem 96 (1996 Lyrics)

» Jerusalem 96 (ITV Euro 96 Titles)

» Jerusalem 96 (Orchestral Version)

So how did England get on in that Holland match ?

1st half:

2nd half:

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