Paul Gascoigne switched off from the rigours of top-level football by going fishing – a pastime that helped inspire England to Euro 96 victory against Scotland, thanks to a makeshift rod and the baths at Wembley.
Footage of the bleach-blond midfielder flicking the ball over Colin Hendry and rifling home will forever be synonymous with the oldest rivalry in international football, so too the ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration that followed.
It is a match Gareth Southgate fondly recounted ahead of Friday’s renewal of hostilities, with the former defender explaining how an unorthodox approach helped inspire Gascoigne’s match-winning display.
“In my time in football, he would be unique anyway in terms of personality,” the interim England manager said with a smile.
“Obviously he was playing at Rangers at the time, so he had an even bigger (motivation to do well against Scotland). I mean I am not sure emotional control was his (style).
“I think Bryan Robson made him a fishing rod and he was fishing in the old Wembley baths, or pretend fishing because that was the only time he ever relaxed so make of that what you will.
“Only he could remember the celebration he was going to do, having scored a goal like that. How does it even cross your mind – ‘oh yes, got to do the dentist’s chair thing’?”
Southgate missed the ‘dentist’s chair’ evening in Hong Kong after speaking to Stuart Pearce – advice the wide-eyed defender is still glad he heeded 20 years on.
The 46-year-old would be “riddled with concern” if his players enjoyed a similarly lively night nowadays, with such changes to the landscape meaning Gascoigne could have been a much different personality and player.
“Whether a character like that comes through the academy system the same way, I don’t know,” under-21s boss Southgate said.
“Certainly, I think we have got individuals who are talented and I’ve heard two or three talk in recent weeks about feeling the coaches at their clubs have allowed them to express themselves.
“I think that’s an important message for all coaches.”
Football has changed enormously since Euro 96 in terms of priorities and finance, but Southgate believes any clash between England and Scotland remains a “special” occasion.
The World Cup qualifier is just the fifth since Gascoigne’s wonder-strike, yet its continued importance has seen the interim manager put his own future on the back-burner.
Friday’s Wembley encounter will be the third time Southgate has featured in the clash, having been part of the Euro 96 triumph and a Wembley defeat in the Euro 2000 play-off, albeit England progressed thanks to their first-leg advantage.
Southgate joked that he has tried to erase that 1-0 loss from his mind, but there were clearly lessons learned from the defeat.
“It’s important they know the history of our shirt, through all of our age groups,” he said. “That’s an important message.
“Part of that is the history of the fixture, some of the great players who have played in it, because every time you play for England you have a chance to make some history, or to play in a game that people will remember forever and that’s incredibly powerful.
“I want them to be aware of that, pitch it in the right way that the performance level is right and that we are not over emotional. We have got to be cool-headed, prepared in the right way.”
Southgate ready to embrace England v Scotland
Southgate believes it is about striking a balance and embracing the occasion.
The interim Three Lions boss appreciates that the way players watch football has altered, so helped create a video to sharpen their minds ahead of Friday’s meeting.
“You want to be involved in nights like this and as a player you have the chance to be one of the faces in the future,” Southgate said.
“I will show the players a montage of some historical stuff, some of them are in a couple of the clips. That, caps and medals is what football is about.
“From previous Scotland games, going back to some black and white stuff – that I am not in… it’s been really nicely done.
“You play for England, you are only looking after the shirt for the next person to come through, so there is some humility about that.
“All of those people have worn that number before and I think that is a good message for our players as well.”
Whoever is selected will have to go some way to get anywhere near England’s number eight at Euro 96, both on and off the pitch.
“God knows what he was actually fishing for,” Southgate said, cracking another smile.
“Whatever might have been floating in the bath, which is probably more pleasant before the game than it was after.”