In this extract from his work, Michael Gibbons recalls the legions Wembley apotheosis beating Holland 4-1 at Euro 96

The schematic for pulsating Holland had been drawn up for months, but they needed the will to see it through. Before we played Holland, Terry Venables gave us the most bright crew talk, said Paul Gascoigne. He made it clear this was going to be one of the biggest competitions in any of “peoples lives”. It was an ego massage that lasted for the purposes of an hour and a half, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and concluding there could be only one win. Every player left that gratify persuasion he was better than his equivalent, wrote Tony Adams, and that the Dutch were simply there for the taking.

It would be the only game at Wembley where the opposition devotees werent dwarfed by the residence mob. There were huge swathes of orange around the stadium, which helped to give the game the atmosphere of a cup final. As the camera washed down the England team during the anthems they gazed tighten and ready to go. Paul Ince and Gascoigne were trying to clear each other chortle; Gary Neville stared blankly at the floor, demo all the excitement of an Easter Island statue; Stuart Pearce sang zealously; Adams did too, but utilizing the wrong words.


England would get the first possibility. Darren Anderton beat in a low-grade reces, the Tottenham corner routine, to near criminal penalties smudge. Alan Shearer shot on the half-volley and Richard Witschge, stationed on the line, cleared the ball to refuge. Shortly subsequentlies, Aron Winter missed a glorious chance to score from two gardens after mistiming a header from a corner.

Both areas were fizzing the ball across the pitching at a crackling pace and with real tone. The Dutch had speedily find a tempo and determination that suggested unison on the pitch at least. England were moving it around with freedom and confidence, as if theyd collectively had their legs removed from manacles. ITV commentator Brian Moore happily observed this new tendency. You sounded so surprised there, Brian, said Kevin Keegan. As you said: Good push and good overtake by England. We can play like the Dutch, weve just got to believe a little bit more in ourselves.

England had adopted a plan of containment, persisting coiled to touched the Dutch on the counterattack. One such shatter put England in front. Teddy Sheringham picked up a clearance from a area and floated a pass that cast Steve McManaman haring free into the Dutch half. As McManaman cut across to the locality he rolled it to the on-rushing Ince, who improvised a Cruyff turn at full fur. It was too speedy for Danny Blind, who throw away an instinctive leg and tripped him over. Blind was booked and England had a penalty.

The penalty was down the far end from where we were, remembers Alex Dyakowski, taken to the game by his father, John, as an 11 th birthday present. I seem to remember most of the game being stood on my fanny, and everyone spent the whole recreation stood up. I said: I cant assure. My pa picked me up and was holding me, and in the end he place me on his shoulders while he was stand on his seat.

When Shearer Shearered it into the area, I remember having to hold on pretty close-fisted through all the jumping and hugging and all the residue. It seemed fairly unstable, my dad was trying to avoid startle too much. The rickety age-old stadium was in for a bumpy old night. England 1, Holland 0.

The rest of the half was controlled by the Dutch. For someone just 20 years old, Clarence Seedorf was a frighteningly evolve force in midfield. The most un-Dutch performance imaginable some long dances over the top of the defence to Dennis Bergkamp developed a few shuddering instants of panic. Long fires were deflected wide-eyed and the corners piled up. The Dutch had eight in the first half alone, and from one Winter applied another simple-minded header over the bar from six gardens. Michael Reiziger then bounced past Anderton and traversed to Bergkamp, who applied another good header off target.

As he had done against Switzerland and Scotland, David Seaman intervened with a crucial save. Gareth Southgate mistimed a header back to him, which introduced Bergkamp clean through on destination. Bergkamp awaited and awaited, eventually killing low-grade to the left angle. Seaman threw out an arm and palmed the pellet behind for a area. England genuinely need half-time here, observed Barry Davies over on the BBC. To help stop the flow, Ince hauled down Jordi Cruyff and was booked, which governed him out of any quarter-final.

Half-time arrived with England still in the lead. The Dutch made a change. Johan de Kock superseded Witschge, who had been guarding the right-hand berth at corners. Someone failed to give him the memoranda about where to stand in the event of an English angle. That oversight precipitated the greatest 45 minutes for English football that didnt involve an Azerbaijani linesman, a mini pitch invasion and Nobby Stiles jigging like an uncle that had overindulged on the table wine at their own families wedding.

McManaman was the out-ball for England. Sheringham located him again early in the second largest half, and he pinned his ears back and took on De Kock. His cross was wildly hacked out by Reiziger for a reces. Gascoigne floated it over, a harmless-looking dance with no real speed on it. Sheringham clambered above Winter and cushioned a header towards the bottom-right angle. It drifted harmlessly past Seedorf and the goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. With De Kock at the other upright doubling up on Adams , no one was protecting that part of the goal. From the most elementary of lapses, England were 2-0 up.

Six minutes later came Englands good portion of play in the whole tournament. After some interplay with Anderton, Gascoigne played a quick one-two with McManaman. The reappearance pellet wasnt great, but Gascoigne expended the bounce to poke the ball past Winter, shrugging him to the flooring as he advanced into the penalty domain. Blind came to him, and Gascoigne cut it back to the edge of the locality. Sheringham was waiting, and threw his right arm out as if he was about to applied his hoof through the ball.

That gathered De Kock across to block the shoot. Sheringham subtly opened his body out to let the dance run across him, and cushioned a square ball across the appearance of the area that was just asking to be blasted. Shearer, who had separated himself from the participate as the Dutch defence was drawn out of caste, stepped in to oblige. Van der Sar threw himself at Shearer, like a bodyguard taking a bullet for the president. It was a vain gesticulate. Shearers shoot was surgically precise, clipping the inside of the berth as it snapped into the net.

The players ran off in two separate radicals; Shearer and Sheringham milked the moment on one side of the lurch, Gascoigne, McManaman and Ince on the other. The camera washed to Guus Hiddink on the bench, with a facial expression torn between bewilderment and dread. England in control, said Davies. And doesnt he know it.

Five minutes later it switched to fear alone. Shearer reached a flick-on firstly and ricochetted De Kock out of the way to get controller of the projectile. He must have wondered what the hell hed sauntered in to. Shearers short projectile find Anderton, whose film avoided off Blind and was parried back to the penalty spot by Van der Sar. The first to react was Sheringham, who slithered in to drive the ball into the inside of the pole. Now were going in to the unbelievable! said Keegan. England had tallied three times in 11 instants and guided 4-0.

England had had less property, fewer films and angles than the Dutch but in one short smash after half-time had become the first team to employed four goals past them for 21 times. In and around Englands cathartic bomb of objectives, the Dutch had missed golden chances of their own. Three descended to Bergkamp and he missed them all. England were on the edge, ever one good pass from being opened up. The Dutch couldnt find it. As the scores digested, Holland were out.

McManaman was stimulating desolation, released by one lovely pellet from Gascoigne that required Bergkamp to chase back and create him down deep into the Dutch half. There seemed to be space everywhere, with Sheringham removing into it to receive the dance and get concepts moving. He had a steering hand in everything England did. Another examining go by Sheringham prepared McManaman free again. His whipped cross simply missed the paw of Anderton for a fifth goal.

Hiddink turned to one of the Ajax Youth Academy alumni to get Holland out of the hole they were in. The European Championship should have been Patrick Kluiverts tournament, but 1996 had been a tempestuous year thus far. Kluivert was involved in a vehicle disintegrate in September 1995, which killed person or persons and permanently invalided another. He was imprisoned of vehicular homicide and be subject to 240 hours community service exactly weeks before Euro 96, and then required an operation ahead of it. Holland had only expended him as a substitute thus far.

His impact was instantaneous and vital. Bergkamp delicately lofted a pass across Southgate which Kluivert floated on to. He wheeled the ball through the legs of Seaman for a consolation goal that might just keep the Dutch in the tournament. There were 11 instants left.

By the time Kluivert scored England had started to shut down. David Platt took the place of Ince, an obvious course of action given that Ince was unavailable for the next round. Shearer and Sheringham, “whos” both at risk of being subjected to suspension if yellow- carded, were removed for Nick Barmby and Robbie Fowler. Both were thirsty to get involved. Fowler narrowly set a header over the bar, and when he slid a recall ball through to Barmby in the area a desperate “mens and” ball undertake from De Kock could easily have been given as a penalty.

The final few minutes belonged to one follower. When Platt had entered the fray he contributed the dance straight to Gascoigne. Come on, you take it, Platt told him. Its your activity. Gascoigne had arrived at the game without his boots, and had to borrow a broken duet from Sheringham in the first half “thats been” a length and a half too big for him. Now in more comfortable footwear set for him at half-time, he taunted the Dutch by provoking a period of one- and two-touch save ball, each pass gleaning an ol ! from the crowd. The adjudicator eventually returned the love-in to an resolve. Gascoigne held up four digits and objected at the scoreboard. Holland 1 England 4. It has been a great night for the English, said Davies, the understatement of the decade.

It altogether dazed everybody in the field and it stupefied us up here as well, said Jack Charlton. Underneath Wembley, in the changing rooms in the bowels of the stadium, the England players sang Three Lions and took turns throwing each other in the huge communal bath.

In the initial post-match interviews Venables did his best to play it down, but it was pointless. Contents of congratulation flooded his direction, from Stanley Matthews to John Major. The following epoch, the press is entered into hyperbolic overdrive. The Independent extended with the headline ENGLANDS NIGHT OF RAPTURE. In The Sun Martin Samuel provoked the Battle of Britain, Our finest hour? Oh boy, youd better believe it.

I can sleep easily now, Venables said in the working day that followed. This makes all the years of hard work, the planning and the perturbing worthwhile. Im full of dignity, because to beat Holland like this necessitates so much better to me. To everyone, it seemed. Most of the England players committed than darknes proportion it as the greatest England performance they ever took part in. The gang had been stupefied into ecstasy. I have never known it like this before, said Venables of the environment at Wembley. It has been special an incredible appear of patriotism and unity.

Ten eras had shaken the two countries. Momentum soon gleans when a squad affects its step. In an editorial two days later about Euro 96, The Guardian noted: It has explosion into the largest, most contagious shared ordeal in recent remember. The play is now enshrined in folklore as one of Englands greatest ever performances. Most people who construed it can recall the goals from remembrance, and try them out on a brief internet video if they need an instantaneous strike of nostalgia. Anything the Dutch did in video games has long since been forgotten. We pummelled them, said Venables in the BBCs end of time examine When Football Came Home . Theres no doubt about it its nice to say, thats what we did.

This is an extract from When Football Came Home, the story of the 1996 European Championship in England. It is published by Pitch Publishing, priced 12.99


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