In the run-up to Euro 1996, England manager Terry Venables had an idea.
He wanted his players to escape the fishbowl that would inevitably surround them in the weeks leading up to the tournament. He also wanted to avoid getting bored.
So in an effort to keep his players’ minds fresh and create as much unity as possible within the squad, he took them on a pre-tournament trip to China and Hong Kong.
(L to R) Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp visit The Great Wall of China during the journey from England to Asia for the start of Euro 96
Paul Gascoigne draws a ball for fans after training during the tour of China and Hong Kong
In hindsight, this would suggest it was a mistake. A liquor-filled jolly on the other side of the world was not exactly the ideal preparation for a tournament – which ITV will fully relive in the coming weeks – and the team returned with their tails between their legs.
The English players, especially Paul Gascoigne, started the journey strongly. Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler wrote in his autobiography, “The tone was set during the flight.
Gazza got involved with one of the flight stewards on the plane and ended up getting some scrap. The pilot saw his a *** and said he would stop the plane in Russia and start all of us up! “.
Fortunately, Fowler and Co reached their final destination. A 3-0 win over China in their last warm-up game ended the tour nicely, but did cause a night of chaotic celebrations when Gazza turned 29.
“Venables gave us a free night to have a blast,” Fowler revealed … and they did.
Photos popped up on the front pages of the papers the next morning of several members of the team lying on their backs as a brew of alcoholic beverages poured down their throats.
The players looked sloppy and disordered, like a bachelor party instead of a group of top athletes about to start a big game. There was no chance they would become a force at the upcoming tournament.
During the opening ceremony, a giant replica of the European Championship trophy will be unveiled
Gazza played against the Swiss, but England made a less convincing start
England players celebrate with Alan Shearer after scoring the opening goal at Wembley
‘DISGRACEFOOL’ read the wilting front page of The Sun and described Gazza as ‘a drunken dork without pride’.
Things went from bad to worse with the news that two screens on the plane they were returning home with had been destroyed.
The airline claimed £ 5,000 in compensation because Gascoigne, who was again drunk and allegedly left by a blow to the head from Alan Shearer, caused the damage through anger, even though the squad got together and initially took the blame.
“We pay lip service to drunken, windy, screen-breaking yobs by calling them heroes, knowing that if they weren’t able to kick a ball in about the right direction, they’d be in court,” wrote Jeff Powell from Sportsmail.
ENGLISH VS SWITZERLAND COMPETITION FACTS
England: Seaman, G Neville, Adams, Southgate, Pearce, Anderton, Ince, Gascoigne (Platt 77), McManaman (Stone 70), Sheringham (Barmby 70), Shearer.
Goals: Shearer 23
Booked: G Neville, Adams
Manager: T Venables
Switzerland: Pascolo, Jeanneret, Henchoz, Vega, Quentin, Vogel, Geiger (Koller 71), Sforza, Bonvin (Chapuisat 67), Grassi, Turkyilmaz.
Goals: Turkyilmaz 83
Booked: Vega, Quentin, Vogel, Grassi
Manager: A Jorge
“Even when I see those pictures, I think, ah Jesus,” Fowler wrote. “They look terrible.” Speaking about the dentist’s chair, the former Liverpool striker said, “We all got in, all laughed, drank a few beers, sang a few songs and went home. No problem, not even that p *****. ‘
“When people try to pour several bottles at a time, it is physically impossible to drink a lot,” McManaman added in an interview with FourFourTwO.
“I think people got drunk for about a second, got drenched and then got out quickly.”
There was now no escape from the attention that England had hoped Venables had hoped for by going to Asia and all eyes were on the opening game of the competition.
ITV will be showing the entire tournament again in the coming weeks to reduce the famine of football fans during the closure of the corona virus.
The reporting begins on Monday evening with the English opener against Switzerland.
Wembley was the venue for the curtain riser, and Ramon Vega, a member of the Swiss squad, admitted that England’s antics gave hope during build-up.
He told The Independent: “We saw it in the Swiss squad and said” wow, this is a preparation for the opening game, where the hosts get drunk in Hong Kong “. We thought we would have a chance here. ‘
Inevitably there was enormous pressure on England to enter, but that was stepped up by the fact that they hosted the tournament.
The English striker drives away delighted after finding the back of the net against Switzerland
England suffered a broken heart when the Swiss side equalized late on the penalty spot
England had drawn a strong group into Swiss fierce rivals Scotland and the Netherlands – which Venables thought were the team to beat – and knew they had to make the perfect start for a feverish home crowd.
On a blazing day in London, Wembley staged an uninspiring 1-1 draw when England surrendered the lead in the second half.
Shearer ended his own long-term goal drought with a nice finish in the first half, but Kubilay Turkyilmaz equalized with a penalty after a Stuart Pearce handball when England lost control of the game to a nervous crowd.
Despite the furore over their antics for the tournament, a few players from England chose to drown their grief after the game in Switzerland at a nightclub in Ilford, which attracted more unwanted press.
Gazza went on to recreate the dentist’s seat moment with this celebration against Scotland, which had just scored a stunning goal to start the English tournament and run to the semi-finals
But then everything changed. Gazza scored THAT goal against Scotland – the impressive strike that accompanied the celebration of the dental chair – Skinner and Baddiel Three lions roared from every speaker and an overwhelming victory over the Dutch drove England to the knockout stage.
We know the rest … heartbreak of punishment, Gareth Southgate missing while the nation oversaw a broken heart. But what a ride it was.
Now manager of England, Southgate is always looking for innovative ways to get the best out of his team. One thing is certain, there will be no boozy pre-tournament trip to Asia when Euro 2020 finally takes place.