Remembering England Versus Scotland At Euro 96!



It is funny the games that you remember.

England versus Scotland was the first ever international fixture and I’d heard so much about the annual series of matches between the Auld Enemy. But alas that yearly game ended in 1989, just as I was getting into football.

Then Scotland qualified for the European Championships in 1996, a tournament that the English were hosting. No way the two would be paired together.

Then as I listened to the draw on the radio (yep the limits we had to go to before the internet boom!), low and behold the two were actually drawn to meet in Group A alongside Switzerland and the Netherlands.

At the time in 96, I was a twelve year old who absolutely loved my football. I’d go over to the park every chance I could to play and I’d read the sports-pages of the papers to gain as much info as possible, I would buy World Soccer magazine to learn more about the rest of the footballing world, listen to the weekly football radio show and phone-in and watch as many games as I could on TV.

So as you can imagine the Scotland England game was one of the biggest things in my life at that time.

I had watched on with interest as maverick coach Terry Venables was moulding England into a decent outfit. They had a strong squad and played in an intriguing Christmas Tree formation.

The focal point to the English side was world class goalscorer Alan Shearer. Just after the tournament Newcastle United would pay a world record £15m transfer fee for the striker. But interestingly the forward went twelve games without an international goal before the tournament and many were questioning his ability on the international stage.

But the main English star for me was Paul Gascoigne. The creative midfielder had joined Scottish side Rangers in the summer of 1995, where he made and instant impact and helped the Gers secure their eighth title in a row. His match winning performance against Aberdeen just a moth before the Euros was stuff of legend as he grab a marvellous hat-trick.

Us Scots, we we had Craig Brown at the helm. The wily coach would always look for a positive, even if that was a near impossible task.

But in 1996 he may not have had any superstar names but he had a squad that he could trust and who would fight tooth and nail for Scotland’s cause.

We had really good players in the likes of Gary McAllister, John Collins, Stuart McCall, Ally McCoist and Andy Goram.

So we headed south in the hope of challenging in our group and causing an upset (if that upset was against our oldest rivals then all the better).

In June of 96 we actually had the sun in Scotland and if you turned on the radio you’d undoubtably hear ‘Three Lions‘ an England song for the Euros sung by the Lightening Seeds and comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner. It was actually a catchy tune and was the anthem of the summer for any football fan.

People my age were only putting down their Tamagotchis when the football was on!

The tournament started off well for Scotland as we held the fancied Dutch side, who looked disconnected under boss Guus Hiddink. The Netherlands had a clutch of stars that had won the Champions League with Ajax only a year earlier.

But Scotland defended resolutely and even created chances against the Oranje. Thankfully Swedish referee Leif Sundell didn’t see Collins use his arm to stop a Dutch effort from crossing the line. I’m unsure if the rest of Villa Park saw the handball but the TV cameras showed all of us at home that John’s arm had clearly blocked the ball.

But we got away with it and as Craig Brown later pointed out goalie Andy Goram was in sensational form:

“It wouldn’t have mattered if Swedish referee Leif Sundell had pointed to the spot, because Andy would have saved the penalty anyway.”

So we passed our first test.

Hosts England also started off with a draw. Alan Shearer started off the tournament with a goal and that was the main plus point to their opening game.

So all eyes were now looking towards Saturday the fifteenth of June, when Scotland would march to Wembley to take on the English.

Now here was my problem. At that stage of my young life I was earning extra money by helping out my dad who was filming weddings at the time.

It never dawned on me that I’d miss the biggest game of my young life because I’d made a commitment to go to work.

Thankfully there was a unique solution.

Casio Tv

The wedding started at St Andrews cathedral in the city centre of Glasgow. The service coincided with much of the first half, so I sat in the car just outside the church on double yellow lines.

I had a few ham rolls made by my gran and a wee bottle of diet Irn-Bru.

I also had a small portable Casio TV that picked up the terrestrial stations. It was small, the picture was grainy and the sound wasn’t the best but I had the windows down and the sun blazing down the River Clyde. So I was quite content.

Scotland again looked decent and well prepared. The Tartan Army had started to win the battle in the stands. But the threat of Shearer and his striking partner Teddy Sheringham was still obvious to see whenever the Three Lions were attacking.

After the service we would charge off to Gleddoch House near Greenock with the start of the second half coming through on the car radio.

During that trip I managed to get a signal on the mini TV and saw a young Gary Neville put in a lovely ball in from the right that found an unmarked Alan Shearer at the back post and the striker just had to nod the ball home!

I was gutted. We had done really well up until that point and a lapse in concentration cost us a silly goal.

But we had to roar again and try for the equaliser.

As the hour mark struck the car stopped on the gravel carpark at Gleddoch House and golf course. As my dad went on to film the speeches and the like, I stormed up to the golf course bar and was in front of the telly. Not bad for a twelve year old.

Teddy Sheringham was then left unmarked in the penalty area but couldn’t steer his header beyond the diving palms of Andy Goram.

Scottish forward Gordon ‘Jukebox’ Durie, who was all bandaged up, then saw his header comeback off the England’s post.

My hero Ally McCoist then entered the fray and I thought he was the man to make the difference.

Durie would then receive the ball inside the penalty area and England captain Tony Adams would bring him down. I held my breath, Scotland held its breath looking toward the referee. The ref pointed to the spot and we had our opportunity.

I still cannot believe that our number nine Super Ally McCoist didn’t take the ball and place it on the spot. He had scored so many Old Firm goals that it just seemed our obvious choice to have him as our penalty kick taker in that moment when all the pressure was on.

But alas it was our captain Gary McAllister who stepped up to face David Seaman. It was a nervy run up but he hit a powerful shot. Unfortunately Seaman went the right way and his left elbow just redirected the shot high and over his bar.

As a nation we were deflated and the team looked to be dead on their feet. For the first time in my life my head hit a bar table in utter despair because of a football match, it would become a theme with Scotland as I became old enough to frequent the bars properly.

Yes slow-mo footage would show that the ball moved as Gary went to kick it but it didn’t matter. Oh and by the way Uri Gellar is a charlatan and can claim an assist all he wants from his helicopter he will forever be remembered for talking bullshit.

Then in what seemed mere moments Paul Gascoigne popped up. I think Scottish fans knew what was about to happen even before their Sassenach counterparts.

The ball reached him on the bounce just in front of our area and Colin Hendry rushed out to meet him. Gazza knew that the long haired warrior was bounding towards him and just flicked it over Hendry’s head and as it looped down with his eyes never leaving the ball he sweetly volleyed it with his right foot and it went fizzing past his Rangers teammate Goram.

As a nation we watched Gazza and his English teammates reenact the dentist chair as a celebration and we just slumped.

See it’s the hope that kills all Scottish fans.

We managed a draw against the Dutch. Had played well against the Auld Enemy and almost got a reward of a point.

Hope would return and fade just as quick as we went on to beat Switzerland in our last group game. Super Ally proving me right with his fine strike. We should have started him against England and he certainly should have taken the spot kick.

As we sat there beating Switzerland, England were doing us a favour and beating the Dutch by four goals to nil.

We were going through. Then as you’d expect our hopes were truly dashed as a young Patrick Kluivert scored with just twelve minutes to go and we were put out by a single goal on goal difference.

As I said it is amazing how we remember a game of football. Even though I didn’t go to it, nor did I see the whole game and had to watch a lot of it on the smallest screen in the world outside of a church and on double yellows.

I doubt I’ll ever forget that game or Gazza’s goal.

As the bride and groom celebrated what was their best day ever, I wonder if they ever noticed a sullen looking youngster helping the camera guy move his equipment as he was thinking this was his worst day ever?

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