Clive Hayward – @Byehorse
MORE ENGLAND HEARTBREAKS- 1988-98
This is the meat in the sandwich of my international football autobiography. It’s part two of a mind-numbing trilogy. If you’re interested in 70’s and 80’s dross that is in the previous article. If new millennium Euro Piss-Artistry is more your bag, that’s on its way in Part Three. This casserole of carnage covers the middle bit, when I was a young blade and then a newly married.
The least said about these Euros the better really. It was another 8 team tournament, lit up by the Orange brilliance of Gullit and van Basten and dragged into mediocrity by a bitterly disappointing effort from England. We played Eire in our first game in Stuttgart. It was the Republic’s debut in finals. They did a number on us: very reminiscent of Wimbledon’s FA Cup final win a few weeks earlier. It got no better for us after this. We were outclassed 3-1 by Holland in our second game, which I listened to on Radio Two whilst taking in a County Championship match at Headingley (£40 for a student membership- deal of the decade). Already out, we capitulated against the USSR on “gameday three”. The tabloids wanted blood, and manager Bobby Robson was lucky to keep his job.
“Nessun Dorma” was the memorable soundtrack to Italia ‘90, a month which England fans of a certain age and Bobby Robson in particular could never forget. In fact, some awful football was played and the final was a disgrace. I’ve always enjoyed a clogfest but this was the last gasp of tackles from behind, and talented players like Maradona took a fearful battering. He was brilliant again though, managing to knock Italy out in the Naples semi-final in front of his adoring public.
England started with all the vim, vigour and panache of Morrisey dancing a foxtrot with Ann Widdicombe. The organisers had sensibly stuck us a long way from anywhere on the island of Sardinia, and the locals of Cagliari wouldn’t have wanted to cross the road to watch what had become dubbed: “Il Gruppo de Dorma”- The Group of Sleep. We did our best to mess up a pretty easy section, but it came right in the end. Here are England’s matches, and where I was at the time:
A disappointing 1-1- draw with Jack Charlton’s Plastic Paddies continued our underwhelming form against the Republic. This was the summer when watching football at the pub was virtually our national sport, and a few of us had selected The Ship in Preston as our venue of choice.
This left us fearing the worst against Holland. We actually had the better of things though, and definitely deserved the point in a 0-0 draw. I watched this one in Westward Ho! -the pavilion at Bideford Cricket Club to be precise- after a similarly forgettable draw between the home side and my team Galmpton. At this point I was very much an England-Sceptic, and had struggled to understand the bullish optimism of my cricketing buddies.
The final game needed us to get a result against the footballing powerhouse of Egypt. It was back to the Ship and another underwhelming display. I’m happy to report that a second half header from centre half Mark Wright saw us through, and I celebrated by jumping up and down on a chair whilst slapping the ceiling.
Out of the group! Into the last 16!
Oh, my days, what a Sunday night this was. Another post-cricket game, and we ventured down to Cowtown and the one and only Bell Inn. Our chaperone for the evening was our old friend Pete Brown. Pete actually hails from Woking (I know!!) but he had been living & working In Brixham for several years and he knew the locals well enough to guarantee the safety of us naïve teenagers from the posh side of the Bay. The Bell was pretty unique: stone floors, nutters and rough cider! Anyway: the football… Absolutely unprecedented scenes. I had watched Leeds, Torquay and England being crap for years. Belgium were no mugs and it was a tight, tense affair. No goals after 90 minutes, and none until the 118th. But then, well, DAVID PLATT! Watch this:
So, we were through to the last 8. The quarter finals. Three games from redemption. The pre-penultimate game for World Cup Winners. You get the picture. Where else to watch this one but The Bell? It was the easiest draw in history too (until we got Sweden in the quarters in 2018!). Little old Cameroon, who surely wouldn’t cause us too much trouble having entertained everyone with their plucky cup run. Fright. Of. Our. Lives. The Indomitable Lions took the Three Lions to the cleaners for half an hour, getting into a 2-1 lead. Gary Lineker rescued us with his electric pace, imaginative 12 yard box plunges and ice cool penalties. 3-2! Semi Finals!!
West Germany. Last 4 of the World Cup. For some reason, we watched the first half across the road from the Ship at The Old Manor. My mate Rob digs me in the ribs as the teams are walking out: “I can’t believe we’re watching this”. So, there it was. Gazza with a daft tackle gets himself suspended for the final. Deflected shot looped over Shilton. Lord Lineker with a deserved equaliser. But then penalties. Pearce. Torquay United’s Chris Waddle. You know the drill.
I desperately wanted West Germany to beat Argentina in the Final (if I was asked today, I’d back the South Americans, but they were different times). I got my way. Alone on a sofa in the 16th Century Bear Hotel, Devizes, I watched the most shithouse World Cup Final of all time. The Falklands Wannabes had no interest in playing football. It was Diego and 10 pub players. They tried to kick Rudi Voller off the park but the referee bravely sent 2 of them off and Helmut Kohl’s Barmy Army won it with a penalty. Of course they did.
More Euro carnage I’m afraid. Graham Taylor had inherited an ageing team and he coaxed nothing from them whatsoever. We returned home from Sweden winless, our fans having abused the Scandinavian hospitality and the players having made Tomas Brolin look good. Fantastically, the Nordic tournament was won by Denmark, who shocked the whole of Germany and every bugger else by winning the final 2-0. The big losers were Yugoslavia, who not only saw their country split into many pieces in a vicious civil war but also got bounced by UEFA in favour of the Danes.
Nope. Didn’t qualify. Graham Taylor did entertain us though. He quite rightly Did Not Like Orange. Treat yourself:
Diana Ross missed a penalty. So, more importantly, did Roberto Baggio, thus ensuring that Brazil won their first World Cup since 1970. Overall it was an enjoyable tourney, held across the USA. I was loved up and on the sofa with my now wife, aka Matty’s Mum.
Skinner and Baddiel. Shearer and Sheringham. Gazza and the Dentist’s Chair.
Euro 96 has been done to death on TV recently, so I won’t bore you too much with the story of another glorious England failure. The sheer unadulterated joy of outclassing the Dutch 4-1 was, of course, ultimately eclipsed by a missed Gareth Southgate penalty in the Wembley semi, but it was a great party.
We watched some games at home (me, Celia and Roy hiding in the garden during the shootout v Spain) and others further afield. The Scotland game found us on the ale in Teignmouth and I’m fairly sure I was back in the Ship for the customary penalties mare.
Allez les Blues. A vibrant France took full toll of home advantage to win their first gold star.
A bit of personal tragedy brought Celia and I very close this summer. We had the pleasure of watching Scotland lose to Norway in the Well House, Paignton. England under Glenn Hoddle were a decent team. We had to work during the first game, a Marseilles win against Tunisia. We got through the group comfortably, with a “several bottles of wine with brother & sister in law” win against Columbia: young talents Beckham and Owen in starring roles.
Our last 16 match against Argentina was a classic, with Owen scoring the sort of goal only 18 year old sprinters can. It could have gone either way as the beer flowed at Rhythm & Blues but with scores level at 2-2 after a pulsating 120 minutes the denouement was obvious. It was David Batty’s turn to be our 12 yard dickhead and an unlucky exit ensued.
Next time- England (a): adventures in Belgium, Holland, Portugal and France to bring my odyssey up to date.