Former England and Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman discusses England v Wales, Gareth Bale and the Euro 96 win over Scotland in an interview hosted by 888sport.com.
We’re a few days away from what is possibly one of the biggest matches in Roy Hodgson’s career as England manager – what are your predictions for the Wales game?
We need to win. It was a disappointing result, not a disappointing performance at the weekend. We need to play like we played but get the result against Wales. The only thing that was disappointing about Saturday was the result. We played well, we showed great confidence and we showed no fear, which is a change for an opening game of a European Championships or World Cup. I think people are getting a little bit carried away with criticism when there was a lot of positives to be taken from that first game.
Do you think there needs to be many changes made ahead of Thursday?
No, I don’t think there needs to be any changes because we played well as a team, we had quite a few chances, their goalie made quite a few saves. Admittedly a lot of the saves were straight at the keeper which is bad luck on our part – he made a great save from Rooney. Joe didn’t have a lot to do all game and then they score in injury time with the last kick of the game. It was a disappointing result but still a lot of positives in there.
How does it feel as a goalkeeper when you don’t have much to do in a game and then a ball loops over your head and you cant do anything?
Trust me I’ve had that happen (laughs). It’s disappointing but the worst thing about something like that is that it sticks in your mind and you’ve got to try and battle that get it out of your mind. The overall performance overall was great but as a goalkeeper when you’ve got nothing to do people think ‘oh no don’t you wish you were diving and saving’, no, because if you’ve got nothing to do then your teams playing well, which we did and lets not get away from that at all, we played really well in an opening game. We looked good, like I say we had the chances, all we needed was a bit more luck in front of goal and that game would have been over.
Obviously Wales are a very familiar team for England, especially the players – looking back 20 years ago you played a very familiar team in Scotland. What were your memories of that Scotland game?
It’ll be very similar to what England are going through now. We played worse than they did on Saturday back in ‘96 so the pressure was on. England have played well in this game but the similarities are there, all it needs now is for Joe to save a penalty and for Harry Kane to go smash a worldie.
Do you think it’ll happen?
I hope so, I’ll take that any day.
That Scotland game seemed to be the crowning moment of Euro 96 – do you think that could happen again if England do get an emphatic victory could it carry them through?
I would love it to happen the same and even for them to go one step further you know and get to the final and it’s about time. It’s 20 years ago since Euro 96 and that’s a long time . We’re coming off the back of some disappointing campaigns in World Cups and in the Euros – it’d be great to give the fans something. What happened in Euro 96 not just for the team but for the whole country was so special and we need that again.
And did you notice a marked change yourself as a professional – did you notice that the atmosphere around football had changed after the tournament?
Yeah it does, it changes. After Euro 96 had finished everywhere we went with our teams we were getting applauded by all sets of fans and normally it’s abuse. It definitely changes that feel good factor, the country love it and then the country love you and they enjoy their football more. At the moment it’s a little bit touch and go because of all the money and everything. We need to give the fans something to cheer about.
If you were in the dressing room on Thursday, what would you say?
I’d just say, play your game, play how you played against Russia – play like that and with better finishing that will get them through.
Would you change the forward line?
No, I’d leave it how it is, see how it goes. I know a lot of criticism has been aimed at Roy for not changing or not using all his subs – the only change I might have made a little bit later on would have been to put Vardy on for Kane but that would have been it. All the other changes were spot on – you know he put Milner on in a defensive role, swap Rooney – he was looking a bit tired and was putting in a few loose passes. I thought Roy did everything ok so just needs to carry that on into the Welsh game.
The defence – people are saying that’s the weak link for England?
There was a worry leading in to the tournament and people are saying that the defense is the weak link but you know it’s a strong weak link lets not get away from that. It’s a strong defence, just at the moment it doesn’t look as strong as the attack. On Saturday against the Russians the defense coped really well with a giant of a centre forward – I thought they played him really well because he was smart, he was backing in he was using his size and his strength but the two defenders dealt well with it – so let’s wait and see. Let’s see if it gets tested against Wales. Hoepfully it doesn’t, hopefully Joe has got nothing to do and we win about 2 or 3-0.
Do you see any similarities in the defense to the back four that you played behind in Euro 96?
No I can’t make that comparison because I’ve not played with these guys I’ve only seen them on TV. You know the back four at Euro 96 was fantastic we knew each other games, we knew each others tactics and habits. They’ve got a lot of pace in the full backs, which is more than we had but it’s about defending. First and foremost that’s what we did and that’s hopefully what they’ll do against Wales.
Coming up against Bale – how do you think they’ll fair?
You know they’re coming up against a fantastic player. They’ve faced players like him before though and they’ll deal with him as needs be. Whether they give him special treatment, I wouldn’t have thought so because the back four will want to operate as a unit and they’ll deal with him like that if the threat comes.
What did you make of Wales’ first game?
The Welsh game was good, it was a good performance but even their winning goal was a scuff. If he hits that clean the goalie might save it or he might get it blocked but it was a little scuff and it was luck and that’s what you need. You need to hit your form in the tournament, you need your best players to stay away from injury and you need luck you always need luck.
Do you think there’s slightly less of a rivalry between England and Wales vs England and Scotland?
I would have thought so yeah, but it’s still a Home Nations team in a final. I want it to be a great game and I want it to be enjoyed. The Russian game was a good game, a little bit disappointing at the end with all the trouble afterwards which put a bit of a downer on it.
There was a bit of nervousness in the Russia game I think…
The players played with no fear, which is what I was really impressed with. They’re playing their own games so it’s clear they’re not getting phased by the tournament. That can happen as you’re waiting around a lot and there’s all the build up, luckily for England they played the second day, which is great because you’re straight into the tournament. Sometimes you have to wait a few days and it can be irritating and frustrating.
The standard of goalkeeping has been criticised after a few suspect goals have gone in. Have you noticed this and what do you put it down to?
I’ve noticed there’ve been goalkeeping errors at this year’s championships, yes. People suggest the standard of goalkeeping isn’t as high as past tournaments but in my opinion the keepers these days are better, much better. When you look at the quality of keepers in the tournament it’s high. The thing that is different is the ball. People just don’t understand how much the ball moves. Every tournament they bring out a new ball that travels faster, moves all over the place and I think that’s the difference. The reason people notice is because they look at where the ball goes in rather than how much it’s moved since it left the foot. However, there has been mistakes, no doubt. The Bale goal was a mistake, even the Eric Dier goal, that’s a goalkeeping error for me. It’s gone in on the keepers side and wasn’t in the corner, yes it had pace but I’d expect to save that even now at 52.
As a goalkeeper, do you instantly know when you’ve made a mistake?
Yes, you know straight away as a goalkeeper if you could’ve done better. There’s even times when people don’t pick up on it but you know yourself you couldn’ve done better so you just keep your mouth shout. The key thing is to not chase the game after you’ve made a mistake.
David Seaman was speaking at the launch 888sport’s sponsorship of 500 London black cabs for EURO 16. New customers can bet now and get treble your odds at 888sport.com. T&Cs apply