Bacon's Bites: I'm not waiting another 28 years. COME ON ENGLAND!
PA Wire/PA Images
Mike Bacon’s remembers July 1990 and England’s demise at the World Cup, Nessun dorma, BSE, the end of Margaret Thatcher. And why Southgate and Robson are so alike.
Wow! 28 years since we were last in this situation with England at a World Cup finals.
Twenty-eight years since Chris Waddle blasted that penalty high over the West German bar and England were dumped out of the semi-finals at Italia ‘90.
Twenty-eight years since BSE, the start of Five Live, the fall of Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela was released from prison... Nessun dorma.
Seems a lifetime ago but, like many, I remember it well.
I’d only been living in my first home a couple of years.
That July night in 1990, a few of us occupied the front room, chilled beers, cheeseburgers on the go, nerves jangling, hopes high.
Much will be the same Wednesday night... although more likely pizzas than burgers.
Back in 1990, a lucky German deflected goal had put them ahead before Gary Lineker (even Arsenal fans loved him that tournament), equalised.
It was pandemonium in my front room – and most of the country!
We’d all been on a high for so long that World Cup summer. A bit like now.
We’d had late dramas, exciting finishes and, without being spectacular, we were in the last four of the World Cup and on the verge of the final.
I suppose our luck had to change.
Not that we were ‘lucky’ as such in 1990, but late heroics had already included extra-time victories over Belgium and Cameroon. David Platt’s 90th-minute winner against Belgium in the last 16, Lineker’s two penalties against Cameroon in the quarter-finals.
Perhaps we’d ridden our luck – but come the semi-final England played heroically.
Yet it wasn’t to be.
Bloody penalties!...Sir Bobby Robson’s sad gaze, Gazza’s tears. The burgers had gone cold, the beer warm. Work next day.
Even my nana, who hated football, phoned me up after Waddle’s missed pen.... “Are you alright dear?,” she asked.
I don’t know what she thought I was going to do.... Sit in a corner and cry no doubt. I felt like it.
But that was then...
Today the crop of 2018 are on the verge of a life-changing achievement.
Let’s just look at the two starting XIs 30 years apart – assuming Southgate picks the same team against Croatia as he did against Sweden.
England 1990 v West Germany: Peter Shilton, Stuart Pearce, Des Walker, Terry Butcher (c), Paul Parker, Mark Wright, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley, Gary Lineker, David Platt. Average age: 29.
England 2018 v Croatia (possibly): Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Harry Kane (c). Average age: 26
My first observation is what an inexperienced team Southgate is working with.
In 1990, the team that played West Germany had far more experienced players, Lineker, Butcher, Shilton and Beardsley, with a cheeky mix of flair from the likes of Gascoigne. Six of Robson’s squad had 50 or more caps.
Today’s England has a completely different feel to it. Only Henderson and Sterling remain from the World Cup squad of 2014, only Gary Cahill has more than 50 caps.
But what Southgate has managed to do is what Robson did back in 1990. He’s brought the country together.
No club colours this summer, it’s England or nowt.
Because Robson was not just a players’ man, he was also a fans’ man. Southgate is much the same.
Too many professional football managers today forget who pays their wages. They forget their roots when it suits!
Poo-pooing fans as having little knowledge about what the game because they have never played it at a professional level.
Poo-pooing their opinions and criticisms.
As manager of Ipswich Town and England, Robson knew the importance of fans.
He took the Portman Road club on a journey many big City clubs were envious of. A great club man, a great international manager.
And while Southgate has never done on the domestic front yet what he has achieved at international level, he has hit back at those ‘old school’ bosses who rolled their eyes at his appointment... and he hasn’t uttered a word.
Just think how old you will be if it’s 28 more years before England are in another World Cup semi-final... Pray, final!
So let’s enjoy, hope and keep those beers chilled.
COME ON ENGLAND!