Gascoigne smashed home an amazing volley to seal a 2-0 win and send the Three Lions on a thrilling run to the semi-finals.
England are set to take on Scotland for the 115th time on Friday night in their Group D encounter of the Euro 2020. This match will renew their 149-year-old rivalry a quarter of a century after their only previous clash in the 1996 edition of the Euros, where the former emerged victorious by a 2-0 margin. The game was an extremely exciting one, with England getting their tournament up and running with an opening win against the auld enemy. Alan Shearer was at his very best in the role of a goal-poacher with goalkeeper David Seaman pulling off a fantastic penalty save. However, Paul Gascoigne was the man who grabbed the limelight with a stunning goal that lit up the 1996 edition of the Euros.
England were holding on to a 1-0 lead following a fine header by Shearer followed by Seaman’s save to deny Gary McAllister from the penalty spot. Gascoigne or Gazza as he is popularly known took initiative in this scenario, perfectly collecting a chip from Darren Anderton on the edge of the box, before flicking the ball over Colin Henry with his left foot, going on to volley past Andy Goram with his right as the defender stumbled. The goal was extremely beautiful, combining technical maturity with an almost youthful abandon.
Gascoigne went on to receive an apology in a Daily Mirror editorial two days later, after the newspaper criticised the player as well as the English team following a team-building trip to Hong Kong. The goal was the first moment of magic from the team as a whole in the edition, having been held 1-1 by Switzerland. Shearer also deserves his fair share of credit, having become the first England player to score more than one goal in the history of Euros. What makes it even more incredible is the fact that the attacker had undergone a hernia surgery six weeks before the 1996 edition.
“He [Shearer] had hernia surgery six weeks before EURO ’96 and he hadn’t scored a goal for England for 21 months. We got him fit for the tournament and he scored a goal in every game and won the Golden Boot award. It was a great testament to Alan as a player and his fitness and his dedication. It was a race against time. I worked with him seven days a week. You have to be really thorough. He played 45 minutes against China and 45 minutes against Hong Kong. Terry called me to his office and asked me, ‘Do I select Alan Shearer for EURO ’96?’ I said, ‘Yes you do’. We timed it perfectly. His first 90 minutes was against Switzerland. A 1-1 draw in which Shearer scored. I was beaming at that and then he scored a goal in every game after that. We worked hard together, we trusted one another. He was a very committed and dedicated person,” said Alan Smith, the then England physio who oversaw Shearer’s return as quoted by UEFA’s official website.
Smith hailed Gascoigne as a player who was world-class, terming him as a “riot” off the pitch. He further hailed current England manager Gareth Southgate as a “very mature” and “top-class” player.
“It was a very happy camp – you couldn’t possibly have Paul Gascoigne in a squad of players and not be happy. He was absolutely hilarious. Off the pitch he was a riot – he had everybody laughing every day and was great for team spirit. He made Terry laugh and on the pitch he was a world-class player so a perfect combination really. He was brilliant, as he is today. Very mature, very sensible and a top-class player.”
Both the managers have expressed a desire to record a triumph at any cost, in a game that holds great significance.
“We’re a team who, when we’ve gone behind in matches, have found a way to win, have found a way to get draws. We’ve done that quite a lot over the last three or four years. That was the biggest outcome for us. We know any team can score against you, they can have those moments. Those moments of quality that day could be replicated tomorrow, so we’ve got to be prepared for everything. We know what it would mean to our supporters to go home with a win tomorrow night. We know that that would help to build more excitement and anticipation for the games that follow, so that is absolutely high on our priority list,” said Southgate.
“It’s a game with a lot of historical significance. it’s a game the players all want to play in. What we have to do is to make sure we prepare properly for it. It will be easy to get the players up for the game. We know we need a result and that’s what we aim to do,” read the message from Scotland manager Steve Clarke.
It will be interesting to note which team turns up on the night, resulting in a lot of joy among the fans and spectators.