Now we’re all supposed to be anti-modern football I suppose I should hate Euro 96. Badiel, Skinner and the zenith of ‘lad culture’. The chattering classes discovering the game, I should really sneer at the tournament (preferably wearing a cagoule, somewhere in the north). However, as someone who turned 9 at the start of that long hot summer I view it with decidedly rose-tinted spectacles.
Like Daily Mail readers longing for a green and pleasant England that never really existed, I nostalgically reminisce of cadging 25p to go round the shop and get a pack of Panini stickers, hours spent down the park trying to replicate Gazza’s goal vs Scotland (and the dentist chair celebration) and playing my Three Lions cassette over and over.
I look back fondly on Karel Poborsky’s silky skills and his equally silky locks. Davor Suker lobbing Denmark’s Peter Schemeichel in Croatia’s red racing check shirt, whilst Del Piero et al looked ridiculously cool (and played ridiculously badly) in Italy’s classic Nike effort. Not to mention the unabashed, unapologetic jingoism from the tabloids and Germany having a player called Kuntz. This was international football at its pinnacle.
Wembley the way it was (and should always have been) with its twin towers resplendent in the London sunshine. Gazza at the peak of his powers (if only Venables had picked Dennis Wise to play alongside him). Smashing the Dutch in probably the finest display I’ve ever seen from my country. Stuart Pearce, with his homemade haircut, going mental after burying the penalty against Spain. England too were at their pinnacle as Venables’ stylish side swaggered their way into the semi’s to only to be defeated by Germany.
I’ve never loved the England national side as much as I did that summer, and never truly cared about them losing since but as Andrea Kopke saved low to his right I blubbed like Southgate into my grey Umbro away kit after the most glorious of glorious failures, a great English end to a great English tournament.
By Callum West