With the season not even two weeks old, people have already been muttering those immortal footballing words ‘what if…’: “What if Liverpool had taken three points against Chelsea?” “What if Healy’s goal for Fulham had stood?” and so on. If either team’s ultimate fate this season is decided by a point or two either way, then fans will definitely look back on these big decisions when in retrospect the officials got it wrong.
Here at STT though we’re not about finger pointing (unless it’s a WAG-related ‘wardrobe malfunctions’), so the co-ordinates of our What If Machine (patent pending) for this first instalment take us back to a time when cruel fate was the perpetrator of England’s downfall in the 1996 European Championships on home soil.
What if ......... Gascoigne had connected with Shearer's pass and scored the deciding golden goal (England vs. Germany - Euro '96 semi final)
Ok, so an obvious place to start. But as young boy I seemed to spend my entire spare time day dreaming about England winning a major international trophy, and I refuse to believe I was alone in kicking a ball into a empty net at my local park, screaming “Sheeearer” and wheeling away as if I’d just won the European Cup in the last minute. We’ve all done it, because it means everything. And the closest
In the few years prior to the tournament,
By the time Euro ‘96 finally came around, the nation appeared to have lost all faith in the team, a fact no more evident than in Skinner and Baddiel’s pleading anthem ‘3 Lions’ : “thirty years of huuuurt, never stopped me dreeeaming!” To further set the tone,
But something was happening that summer. Buoyed by a continuously sold out Wembley, and driven by the inspirational Terry Venables, the team somehow found itself in the semi-finals against the Germans; old enemy and the tournament favourites. To reach this dizzy height,
The knock-on effect would have been palpable.
So, in a grand statement of pure speculation: just six inches have determined an entire decade of international disappointment and heartbreak for English football…sorry Gazza!