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Opinion

From 96 With Love

7 months ago
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For anyone missing football and doesn’t want to pay for a BT subscription to watch Bundesliga, ITV are currently showing all of the games from Euro 96.

There have been lots of match re-runs shown on Sky, Youtube etc recently, I rewatched the 4-3 Liverpool game from 96 on Sky but for the life of me can’t think why…

However, Euro 96 is a special tournament for me as it’s what got me into football and also led to me supporting Newcastle.

At 8 years old I had absolutely no interest in football, but this tournament and that man Shearer captivated me.

I actually have tickets for every England game at Euro 2020 but obviously won’t be redeeming them this summer. If this takeover works out, there may be a chance that I’ll watch a Newcastle player or two in the team by the time the tournament finally comes around. I’ve attended most England games since September 2018 but the only Newcastle players I’ve seen playing so far have been DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Schar twice.

So, in the absence of Newcastle and England for the foreseeable, I’ll definitely be following this coverage of Euro 96 for the rest of May.

It’s great seeing the whole build up to the game (starting off with England v Switzerland one) and plenty of people with Newcastle connections present. In the studio is John Barnes, a year before joining us, and Jack Charlton. They have a couple of segments talking to Fergie and Keegan weeks after we came so close. Fergie then joins the others in the studio whilst Keegan heads into the commentary box.

There’s lots of Newcastle representation throughout the squad as well. Ferdinand and Howey in the (at the time) current team are on the bench. Shearer who was soon to sign and Pearce who would join in 97 are in the first team along with former player Gazza. There’s also a very young Sol Campbell on the bench as well as a future coach in Steve Stone.

With Paul Ince, Nicky Barmby and Gareth Southgate (and Gazza) in the side there’s a decent Boro representation too. My, how North East football has fallen.

Just before kick-off Keegan states, ‘The one man we really need to lead us I think in this tournament is Alan Shearer. Everyone’s gone quiet on him, no one’s talked about him. But if he comes on fire in this tournament, we’ll win it.’

Encouraging words from the man who would sign him not long after. Shearer did ‘come on fire’ that tournament and picked up the Golden Boot but, ***SPOILER ALERT***, we don’t win it.

If I hadn’t rewatched this game, I wouldn’t have known how poor Shearer’s goal stats had been going into that tournament (for England I mean, at Blackburn he was unbelievable). He hadn’t scored in 12 international games, a period spanning 21 months. His international scoring stats going into that opening game was 23 caps, 5 goals. Hardly inspiring figures. It makes you really appreciate what he gave up when he left the international set up aged just 29, in his prime, and having scored 25 goals in his previous 40 England games. For him to give up England when the squad was looking so promising so that he could give his best to Newcastle for the rest of his career is a stark contrast to another Newcastle number 9 who would come a few years later.

Venables kept faith with his main man and despite not scoring since September ’94, twenty-two minutes in, Shearer rifled a vicious shot in off the post. It’s a great instinctive strike. The type of goal that was typical of Shearer at this stage of his career.

I can tell from this game alone that it’ll be easy to remember why I fell in love with the bloke the first time around. His power and aerial ability is legendary but seeing it all again when he was in his pomp pre-97 injury is fantastic. It’s not necessary for me to remind anybody on The Mag of how special a player Big Al was but for a lot of his career with us he was a remodelled version of his previous self, due to injuries slowing him down. This tournament will show him at his explosive best.

Keegan is singing his praises all game long from the commentary box and his admiration for him is clear.

The second half is a bit of a damp squib with us showing little threat and Switzerland the better team, eventually levelling through a dodgy penalty given away by Stuart Pearce. Shearer gets a few shots off from outside the area but without any joy.

There’s an amusing bit of commentary as Keegan and Brian Moore are bemoaning technology taking over football because of some issues with the electronic number boards during a substitution. If only they knew what would come over the next quarter of a decade…

The England game against Scotland will be aired on Sunday, I’ll be enjoying that and a moment of magic from another legendary Geordie.

At least this gives us something to enjoy some #cans with until the news we’re all waiting/hoping for is announced.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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