There is an affinity between English football fans and the European Championships that perhaps even goes beyond that with the World Cup.
Euro 96 and the Three Lions wave sits alongside Britpop at the forefront one of country’s most defining eras to close the 20th century.
Expectations were high (as standard) heading into the tournament on English soil, the first time of many that proclaimed football was ‘coming home’. Not even Paul Gascoigne and the squad’s drunken exploits with a dentist chair in Hong Kong could dent that irrational confidence.
Stories from Euro 96 are told like tall tales in England. This is the story of Gascoigne’s incredible goal against Scotland, as told by BBC Sport’s Euro 2020 punditry team of Alex Scott, Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer – who watched on from home, in the stadium and on the pitch.
We were close knit, we had to be. We had to perform because of what had gone on in Hong Kong with the dentist chair!
We did perform in the tournament really, I think, and everyone appreciated what we tried to do. We had a great team spirit.
There’s so many memorable moments for me personally – scoring against Switzerland, I had to. I hadn’t scored for England for two years, 12 games, going into the tournament. That was bloody memorable.
I was 16 I think I was, I went and trained with the team before the Scotland game and before the Netherlands game. It was one of the best, maddest experiences ever. A kid like me, I was living on an estate then, went and sat down and I was training with Gazza. I was like, ‘f***, this is crazy’.
I travelled with them, I went in the changing rooms before the game, was in the tunnels before the game, then I’d go in the stand with the players who didn’t play and get picked.
I was like a proper squad member, it was unbelievable.
You’re looking out the window on the way to the game and just seeing the lines of people in the streets, and this is why I’m so excited for Euro 2020, hopefully it’s going to be similar. Obviously Covid makes it a bit difficult but you’d like to think that it kind of gives people that boost and morale that I saw back then.
It was just like…the goal that goes in…
I missed the celebration but when he just flicks it over the head and bangs it in the bottom corner, given that he was at Rangers at the time and it was against his goalkeeper, Andy Goram, it was just crazy, nuts.
It’s almost like everything in the ground just paused for a couple of seconds and then it happened and it goes silent.
And it was like…bang…and then it just erupts.
I don’t know whether the water bottle was strategically placed in the position that it was but even that was perfection, wasn’t it? That was just there behind the goal for us to just go and do and it was Gazza’s idea to go and do it.
I can’t remember whether if it was planned just for if Gazza had scored or if anyone had scored, but it all worked out really well – Gazza scored, he was in a dentist chair, we squirted water, the bottle was there.
If Gazza had arranged that bottle there then it was perfection like his goal was. And it wouldn’t have surprised me if it was vodka in there rather than water!
It’s just…look, I’m smiling because it just takes you right back to the feeling you felt watching that. That’s why football and sport is so special, because so many people can connect with different moments, you can be like ‘I was there’.
I remember being around the east end of London and it’s actually when the first big screens came in, the ones where you could go to a pub and it’d fold down and you had big screen football. And obviously just with Gazza and Wembley, there was just something magical about it.
I was immersed in it, I remember going up to central London as well, I was everywhere watching football, I was in it. I just remember all the buzz, I really hope we get that feeling again.
My mum used to the manager of a pub so we lived above it, and I was in the pub with the big screen and I remember everyone going mental because they could not believe the scene we had just witnessed. And there was little me like ‘wayyyy‘.
Alex Scott, Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer are pundits for BBC Sport – where you can watch Euro 2020 this summer.