A journey of pain: A fan’s account of watching England’s struggles

Date published: Friday 27th May 2016 11:35

Gareth Southgate: After that penalty miss at Euro 96

Dave Tindall has experienced plenty of lows and few highs when watching England in tournament football over the years. Here, he explains why he simply can’t turn his back on the Three Lions….

It took me a while to realise that being an England fan was an exercise in misery, heartache and what might have been.

Despite it seeming from another era, when I watched England at Spain ‘82, it was only 16 years on from 1966 and our joyous World Cup final win over West Germany at Wembley.

Nobody had invented a phrase like “16 years of hurt” as there was no need yet. There had only been three world champions since then (Brazil, West Germany and Argentina). Anyway, England were just glad to be in the finals again after failing to qualify in 1974 and 1978. There was a feeling of optimism.

But what happened in 1982 pretty much set the tone for my England-supporting life. Let’s take a journey and relive the pain….


1982 World Cup 

I’d collected the Panini stickers and even bought the No.2 smash ‘This Time (We’ll Get It Right)’ – actually one of the first three singles I ever purchased along with Dexy’s’ ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers. Ridiculously, Bryan Robson gave England the lead inside 30 seconds in their opening 3-1 win over France and I thought this was all a doddle.

A 2-0 win over Czechoslovakia followed and we made it three wins out of three with a 1-0 victory over Kuwait although, being young and silly, I was bemused that we hadn’t beaten such opposition 10-0. This World Cup featured a second (three-team) group stage and we were put in against West Germany and Spain. A 0-0 draw with the Germans left us needing to beat Spain by two clear goals to reach the semis but we couldn’t manage even one.

The cavalry of Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking (both sidelined by injury up to that point) came on as late subs but both fluffed chances. Keegan was the biggest culprit, heading wide a sitter off his 80s perm. I was close to tears. We hadn’t lost a game, had conceded just a single goal in five matches but were out. Not fair.



1984 European Championships – Didn’t qualify


1986 World Cup 

Gary Lineker: Hat-trick saw off Poland in 1986


A confusing time for me as I was in love for the first time. Not with England, but a strange and wonderful girl who turned my head so much I didn’t even see England’s 3-0 second-round win over Paraguay. The younger me would have been appalled that I hadn’t put football first.

The group stage had seen us flirt with disaster (as I would later) by losing to Portugal and then being held 0-0 by Morocco. That game was like an unfolding nightmare as Bryan Robson was led away with a crocked shoulder and Ray Wilkins sent off for a hissy fit. Gary Lineker’s first-half hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Poland got us back on track and, after he, Beardsley and me (wink) had scored during that Paraguay match we were up against Argentina in the last eight.

This, of course, was when Diego Maradona performed the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde act by punching in the opener and, moments later, brilliantly dribbling through the entire England defence to give us a mountain to climb. John Barnes’ late cameo almost saved the day as he set up Lineker to pull one back and then put another cross on a plate for the eventual Golden Boot winner who somehow headed it backwards.

It was too little, too late. England were out and I split up with my girlfriend soon after. Again, not fair.


1988 European Championships

As in the 1986 World Cup, England started with a 1-0 defeat, this time to Jack Charlton’s hoof-it merchants the Republic of Ireland. I did recall feeling a vague sense of satisfaction that at least a Liverpool (my team) player, Ray Houghton, had got the goal. But this time there was no Lineker v Poland-style comeback in the other two group games. Hat-trick hero Marco Van Basten tore us a new one in a 3-1 defeat to Holland and Russia decided to beat us by the same scoreline. Three defeats out of three. Dreadful.



1990 World Cup

If ever I stop believing in England, I try to summon up the magical memories of 1990. They were fuelled by me being a student at the time and obviously watching England’s progress in pubs or at mate’s houses without any other real cares in the world (beyond girls again) made the run to the semi-finals even more special.

To be honest, the group stage was fairly awful – a dire 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland and a 1-0 win over Egypt although we did look good in the 0-0 stalemate with Holland. In the football equivalent of Dylan going electric, Bobby Robson swapped traditional 4-4-2 for an exotic sweeper system against the Dutch and it worked so well we used it for the rest of the tournament. After John Barnes had seen a perfectly good volley ruled out, David Platt sent us wild by scoring a brilliant injury-time winner in the last 16 against Belgium and then Lineker’s nerveless pair of penalties tamed the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon who had us wide-eyed with fear after they’d roared into a 2-1 lead in the quarters.

And so to those Germans again. England played out of their skin in that semi-final, getting a deserved late equaliser through Lineker after the Germans’ spawny free-kick had ballooned in off Paul Parker. The defining images of that World Cup came soon after with the inspirational Gazza picking up the yellow card that would keep him out of the final (irrelevant as it happened), Lineker mouthing ‘have a word’ and then Stuart Pearce (saved) and Chris Waddle (orbit) missing penalties in a shootout.

We felt empty but thanks to Gazza, New Order and Barnesy’s rap on ‘World In Motion’, football had become hip and the world had changed forever.



1992 European Championships

“Brolin, Dahlin, Brolin…. brilliant.” Barry Davies’ famous soundbite that signalled another woeful European Championships for England. It was always going to be hard to follow the high of the 1990 World Cup but, boy, this was pitiful.

After bore draws against Denmark and France, Graham Taylor’s team simply had to beat Sweden to make the knockout phase. David Platt’s early strike gave us hope but it all went wrong after that as Taylor infamously replaced chief goal-threat Lineker with Alan Smith and Brolin delivered the knockout blow.

It somehow seemed Brolin was still taking the p*ss when he later signed for Leeds and turned up looking like Elvis in his fat, late 70s, Vegas period. Was this really the fella that dumped us out of the Euros!


1994 World Cup – Didn’t qualify

“Do I not like that.” Failing to reach the finals in the USA was gutting at the time but the doomed qualification programme did at least produce lifelong memories in the form of Graham Taylor’s catchphrase-ridden documentary. “Linesman. Linesman.” “Can we not knock it.” “It’s made for Wrighty to come on and score.” “Hit Les”. I could go on.


1996 European Championships


‘Football’s Coming Home’ sang Skinner and Baddiel and the summer of 1996 really did seem like one big party.

Like all the best ones, it started slowly (a 1-1 draw with Switzerland) before some Scottish people arrived and it got a whole lot better. Gazza’s iconic lob and volley sealed that 2-0 win over Scotland in the second game at Wembley, a goal which sparked the dentist chair’s celebration (is it me, or do England do better in finals when they’re mucking about more off the pitch?).

Yuri Geller even claimed to have somehow made the ball move and contributed to Gary McAllister missing a penalty. Bonkers. As if that wasn’t surreal enough, we then turned into 1970 Brazil and hammered the Dutch 4-1. Who does that to Holland? England were on a roll. We bought Loaded, we listened to Oasis, we had swagger.

This was probably my lifetime high as an England fan. I genuinely thought we were going to do it. We even won a penalty shoot-out to see off Spain in the quarters, Stuart Pearce gaining redemption for his missed spot-kick at Italia 90 and then……. the Germans yet again in the semis. This was our time, wasn’t it.

Alan Shearer nodded us in front and it was all going to plan before the aptly named Stefan Kuntz levelled. Darren Anderton hit the post, Gazza couldn’t stretch out his leg quick enough and then Gareth Southgate missed a sudden-death penalty in the shootout and it had slipped from our grasp.

I’d watched that game in the Original Oak in Headingley and while others hit the booze I went outside and wellied some iron railings. Foot wrecked, dreams wrecked, this was cruel beyond belief. Why?!!


1998 World Cup

Glen Hoddle leaving out Gazza caused an absolute sh*tstorm but he was probably right. Maybe less so about using faith healer Eileen Drewery – “Oh, come on Eileen” – as part of his backroom team.

It was youngsters Michael Owen and David Beckham who were the chief headline-makers in this World Cup despite both starting the first two games as subs. Boy wonder Owen came off the bench to score against Romania before ‘Golden B*llocks’ scored a brilliant free-kick in the win over Colombia.

At this point, I flew to Las Vegas, not because I’d had a winning bet but because a close friend was getting married. It meant a big group of us watched the last 16 clash between England and Argentina in a big cabana by the pool at Treasure Island. Batistuta and Shearer exchanged early penalties and then we went beserk when Owen ran through to score England’s sensational second.

Life seemed perfect at that point but Argentina levelled at half-time, Beckham got sent off which caused a huge row in our tent and then England lost on penalties again. We were gutted but at least Vegas was a good place to drown our sorrows.


Part II of Dave’s recollections will appear here on Monday. Share your memories and let us know your thoughts…..

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