Welcome to the first part of a series of blog posts on RED CARD RANTING where I revisit the national tournaments of my lifetime.
Thie is Part One – Italia 90.
The year of almost was.
I was two years old, so my memory is slightly hazy… Luckily I had the One Night in Turin bluray to help me!
Tale as Old as Time
Football hooliganism marred the reputation of English football fans at international tournaments.
Lack of accomplishment of the national side plagued the nation, causing more and more disinterest in the national side. (In fact, in ’88, England had lost all three group matches.)
A determined manager with much international experience, but no national silverware.
I could be talking about now or then. But there is an exception – Paul Gasgoine.
We have a lot of good and great players in the current England side, don’t get me wrong – but do we have a Gazza? A world class player of his calibre?
Bobby Robson showed a lot of faith in choosing to take, and play, a player that was in the press so often for negative reasons. Robson, in fact, blasted the press on more than one occasion for ruining preparation for the tournament and trying to sell false stories.
There were more police around English fans than there were English fans. In fact, it seems like the police were far more antagonistic and prompted much of the violence that came from England fans.
This was nearly as bizarre as the images of the pope circling the stadium track whilst sticking out of a sun roof, that is. Which was probably the second most surreal moment, bar the size of Linekar’s shorts.
But, unlike England at more recent tournaments, the football spoke for it all.
England Vs Republic of Ireland
A physical game between the close rivals, where England faced a side managed by Jack Charlton – part of the ’66 England winning world cup squad.
Linekar scores, and an Ireland substitute equalises.
21 goals in the first eight games, and only two of them came from the British teams.
England turns pesimistic.
Don’t we always?
And with false accusations of sexual naughtiness at the England hotels, the team walked off the training pitch refusing to give a pre-match interview for the following game.
Has the press caused England’s woes?
Are we the only country whose press turns on its own team?
England Vs Holland
Ruud Hullet was the star player for the world champions. And, as England changed from a 4-4-2 to a sweeper formation, their attacking flare improved.
And the Holland managed had a cigarette on the bench. Imagine that, eh?
Great runs by Gazza. Disallowed goal for handball by Linekar.
Attack attack attack.
Final score 0-0.
England fans marched from the stadium, greeted by the police. Glasses and stones are thrown, police retalliated without mercy.
England Vs Egypt
A win would qualify us.
Back to 4-4-2, and it is once again a heated physical battle.
Gazza free kick lifts onto Mark Wright’s head, and… GOOAAL!
1-0. We’re through.
246 England fans are deported, the exact number needed to fill a plane. Many claim they weren’t even involved in the fighting.
England Vs Belgium
The last 16.
Sweeper system once more. Does anyone play sweepers nowadays?
Either way, England were allowed more creativity.
A Linekar cross to Barnes saw the ball in the net, but disallowed for offside.
Gazza gets a yellow – something that will prove significant later on.
David Platt from a free kick chip… and we’re through!
Players are allowed to relax at the hotel, with Gazza and Waddle playing cards with the locals late into the night.
England Vs Cameroon
Cameroon, who had defeated Maradona’s Argentina in the opening game, faced us in the quarter final.
Stuart Pearce crosses, and Platt heads in!
Then Gazza gives away a penalty.
Then Cameroon take the lead.
Linekar scores penalty – the first penalty awarded to England in over four years.
Extra time, again.
Gazza dribbles, passes through, England player goes down, it’s a penalty…
Linekar scores! 3-2! Cameroon may have had twice as many shots, but England are in the World Cup Semis!
Imagine being able to say that now. It must be an incredible feeling.
England Vs West Germany
Of course it is. England against their oldest rivals.
However, twenty times more tickets were given to England’s opposition’s fans. There were fears for England fans, as English hooligans had caused death of fans five years ago. Masses of Italians are arrested.
But never mind.
England walk out into the World Cup Semis. Jeeze. What I would give to see that happen in 2018.
Gazza has shot after shot after shot, then gets a yellow. The tears come – he would miss the final. Linekar shoots a look at the bench. Gazza doesn’t have so many shots now – did this affect him mentally?
We concede on a free kick, then Linekar scores.
Waddle hits the post in extra time.
It’s penalties. Linekar, Bardsley and Platt score.
Stuart Pearce’s shot is saved.
Imagine if that penalty went the other way.
What would the history books say then?
As it was, England missed their next penalty.
It’s tears again.
Oh well, there’s always 2018.