One of my most memorable and enjoyable days ever (not counting my wedding day), was the 15th of June 1996. The build up to this amazing day actually started around a year earlier. My maths teacher at sixth form college had applied on behalf of the college, for 50 tickets to any group game at Wembley, in the 1996 European Championships, in which England were hosts. I remember the day he told us his application had been successful and although we didn’t know who the opposition was, we definitely had an England group game. Imagine the euphoria as the Championships approached, turning up to a maths lesson to be told that you would not only be going to the European Championships, but the game we had been allocated was England vs Scotland!
The day was a scorcher, probably over 100 degrees pitch side. Although we were row 4, we were actually on the front row, I remember the crowd control barriers were black and white all the way round the stadium and every time we leaned on the black parts, we burnt our arms.
We had decided to have the St. George’s Flag painted on our faces, which turned out to be a huge error of judgement as the white face paint acted like sun block and the red paint had the complete opposite effect, meaning we had the St. George’s Flag as a permanent feature on our faces for over a week after.
I’ll never forget the atmosphere, I’ll never forget Shearer’s header when he ran right up to us in celebration, I’ll never forget Seaman saving the penalty from McAllister and as we were still celebrating the save Gazza produced a moment of genius as he looped the ball over Colin Hendry, scoring with a volley and following it up with the famous dentist chair celebration.
I’ll never forget the lyrics “Football’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming…” being sung from every England fan in the stadium.
Baddiel and Skinner, together with Ian Broudie, had written the Three Lions song especially for the 1996 tournament, football was indeed, home.
Today, 5284 days on from that memorable day, we have another day to remember, but for significantly different reasons. The home of football has just been informed that The Prodigal Son, will not be returning home.
The secret ballot, voted for by the executive FIFA committee, meant England didn’t even make it passed the first round of voting, coming last with only two of the 22 votes up for grabs. What is more surprising here, is that one of our votes was actually from ourselves, through Geoff Thompson.
Today truly is a sad day for football and England, I genuinely think we would have hosted the best World Cup tournament possible, a country that is defined by football and one that would have guaranteed to sell out even the most unattractive of fixtures.