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There is a World Cup just months away. You want to know how you can tell? Quite simple, really. Drama surrounds England.
While England, until recently, have generally struggled at World Cups and European Championships, they have absolutely perfected the knack of damaging pre-tournament dramas. They have grown so attached to it, that they keep a picture of pre-tournament drama in a heart-shaped frame beside their bed.
As the boos and the 'what a load of rubbish' chants reverberated around Molineux with England 4-0 down to Hungary, it felt like a toxic turning point for Gareth Southgate. The reality is, it doesn't even make a dent in the worst England pre-tournament dramas of the past.
It's easy to look back at the legacy of Sir Bobby Robson and believe he was always loved by English football. Italia '90 was a watershed moment for England, providing the football feel-good fuel that powered the start of the Premier League.
However, the truth is that for most of his time as England manager, Robson was absolutely vilified by the Press and fans in a way that makes what Gareth Southgate is going through look like a polite, barely audible tut.
There were calls for Robson to go ahead of the 1986 World Cup, but pre-tournament annoyance at him quickly turned to post-tournament outrage at Diego Maradona, so he was spared. After England flopped embarrassingly at Euro '88, though, the media turned absolutely toxic against Robson.
'Robbo should be a train driver,' the headline in the Mirror declared after a 1-1 friendly draw against Saudi Arabia.
Despite this, England qualified for Italia '90 without even conceding a goal, and yet the criticism never stopped. Even when Robson granted his critics their wish and agreed to take over at PSV after the World Cup, he was then criticised and branded 'a traitor'.
1988 - England draw in Saudi Arabia, surely time for Bobby Robson to go? pic.twitter.com/4bCfVnxHM4
— When Football Was Better (@FootballInT80s) May 9, 2016
"The very same papers which had been demanding for so long that I quit were now taking me to task for accepting another job, even though they had told their readers that I would not be kept on," Robson recalled in his autobiography.
Tensions reached a peak before the tournament when Robson confronted the press about their treatment of him, branding their stories "garbage".
"Morale was good with me in charge and thinking of nothing else [but the World Cup]," he said. "But that has been ruined and will have affected the preparations for the sake of a flimsy story." That was the toxicity with which England went into what turned out to be their most successful major tournament in nearly a quarter of a century.
There was a natural wave of optimism sweeping the country in the lead-up to Euro '96. England were the hosts and it had been four years since their last major tournament. They had a good team and a popular manager too in Terry Venables.
Ideal conditions, you might think, for a nice positive drama-free build-up? You would be wrong. Just as the tournament was about to start, headlines such as 'DISGRACEFOOL' were on the front pages of the newspapers alongside photos of very drunk footballers.
The cause was the infamous pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong and a night out in a bar in which the players found the 'dentist's chair'. Reserve goalkeeper Ian Walker picks up the story.
"We were all in there having a couple of drinks and having a good time… and for some reason, it kind of escalated and started going a bit crazy. "Someone found a dentist's chair in another room. So of course - bang! - straight away we're on it. I think Gazza went on first, then I had a go, then Teddy Sheringham. Then it all went off, just bedlam.
"People were taking pictures though, and it soon got out. Suddenly the UK papers were raving: "Look at these joke players who are supposed to be representing England and playing in the European Championships next week.
"Then supposedly somebody broke a screen on one of the seats on the flight home, and somehow that got out too. I don't actually know if anyone did break one, but of course, that exacerbated matters - Look at these drunken hooligans, out of control.
"Back in England we stayed at Burnham Beeches, the team hotel, and it kind of became a siege mentality; an 'us against them' situation."
It obviously didn't count for much in the end, with England having a great tournament before some semi-final penalty shootout heartbreak. If it wasn't for the 'disgrace' in Hong Kong we would not have had Gazza's iconic celebration against Scotland either.
Surely - surely - when England are the actual world champions they can have a nice, quiet build-up to a major tournament? Again, no.
The 1970 defence of the Jules Rimet always looked like it would be tough for England. Conditioning wasn't quite the same then, and the hot conditions were always going to strongly favour the South American teams.
To help acclimatise, England headed to Colombia and Ecuador to play two friendlies days before the tournament started, and off to Bogota they went. At their hotel, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton took a look around the gift shop in the foyer, only to be accused of stealing a bracelet. They denied it, made statements, and left for Quito to play the next friendly.
When they returned to their Bogota hotel before making their final trip back to Mexico City to start the World Cup, Moore was arrested after a second witness had come forward to corroborate the shop assistant's accusations. He was charged and put under house arrest at the home of the Colombian Football Federation director Alfonso Senior.
"I should have thought that the integrity of this man would be enough to answer these charges," raged Sir Alf Ramsey. "It is too ridiculous for words." Meanwhile, former Brazil coach Joao Saldanha said the same had happened when his team stayed at that hotel as an attempt to extort money.
The owner of the shop was unwavering, saying of Moore: "He might be the best footballer in the world, the most attractive, distinguished and most highly regarded of anyone, a friend of her British majesty even. But that doesn't mean he's not a kleptomaniac." Moore was ultimately released on the basis of a lack of evidence just in time to captain England in their first World Cup game. He always denied it, although he wasn't necessarily convinced of the extortion-attempt theory either. "Perhaps one of the younger lads with the squad did something foolish, a prank with unfortunate circumstances," Moore said shortly before his death according to his biographer Jeff Powell.
If anything showed England's penchant for total self-destruction on the eve of a major tournament, then the winter leading up to 2012 was probably it. In their last qualification game, Wayne Rooney got himself needlessly sent off while leading in Montenegro. That meant England would have to start the World Cup without their best player for the first two games. That was only the start of it, though. The rest barely sounds believable.
At the time, England were blessed with two top class centre-backs in John Terry, the captain, and Rio Ferdinand. However, Terry was charged by the police after allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton, during a Premier League match between Chelsea and QPR.
England had to respond to their national team captain, Terry, being caught up in a racism storm, so they stripped him of the armband. The manager, Fabio Capello, did not agree with the decision and resigned just four months before the start of Euro 2012.
"I thought it was right that Terry should keep the captain's armband," Capello explained. "I have spoken to the [FA] chairman and I have said that in my opinion one cannot be punished until it is official and the court - a non-sport court, a civil court - had made a decision to decide if John Terry has done what he is accused of."
Roy Hodgson was parachuted in to take over and Steven Gerrard handed the captaincy. However, having lost their manager for not backing Terry, England's next solution was to drop Ferdinand, not Terry, from their Euros squad to avoid a confrontation between the two.
Asked if his squad selection had been to avoid the potential for division among the squad, Hodgson said: "I can't turn round to you and say it didn't occur to me.
A fragile Ego is putting yourself at Number 1 @rioferdy5
Thanks for putting me in your top 5 🏆👍🏻
— John Terry (@JohnTerry26) May 26, 2022
"I'm a football person. I work in football day in, day out. I don't live on the planet Mars. So you can't expect me to say I didn't give that a thought. "But I chose the centre-backs I wanted to come with me. I can't be clearer than that."
England lost on penalties in the quarter-finals with Wayne Rooney failing to score a single goal in the tournament and Terry and Ferdinand still bickering with each other to this day, further explanation as to why the 'golden generation' didn't win a thing.
In theory, Glenn Hoddle should have been an ideal manager for England. He was English, so he satisfied the traditionalists, but he had played abroad and championed the kind of patient, possession style of play which modern international football had become.
It was a good time for it too, with England starting to produce real quality players including Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Michael Owen. Things appeared to be relatively rosy from the outside, but it was not so within the camp.
For all the new talent on offer, it all kicked off beforehand when Paul Gascoigne was sensationally cut from the squad. Hoddle delivered the news to each omitted player in his hotel room and Gazza had not taken it well.
"I remember when I went in and we were actually talking about me being in the squad while cleaning the room up and fixing the mattress," Ian Wright said. "The gaffer and me were talking about what he needed from me and Michael [Owen] all the time while we're tidying the room up - things had been smashed to bits! "I was embarrassed because I was thinking about how the gaffer had to deal with Gazza going mad in the room. I just naturally went in and started helping tidy stuff up."
That was just the start of it, though. Hoddle was not just a revolutionary on the field in terms of England at international level, but off it as well. He put a lot of trust in his own private faith-healer, Eileen Drewery, and that is something that unsettled the media especially.
The real reason Paul Gascoigne was dropped for World Cup 98?! 😲
Steve Howey tells the story of Gazza visiting Eileen Drewery! 😂
🔊 Hear more on the Soccer AM Podcast https://t.co/a4xfW22Dgu 🔊 pic.twitter.com/oes0iKcsMz
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) March 12, 2018
Hoddle even fancied himself as a bit of a faith healer himself, as Gary Neville recalled: "Before the game, Glenn did his usual pre-match routine of moving around the players, shaking their hands and touching them just over the heart. "We'll never know if the methods had any positive effect."
Generally, and unbeknown to most, Hoddle's man management was a major issue for the squad. He was even able to annoy the nicest man in the world in Gareth Southgate, who recalled: "Glenn is a complex man.
"Deep down, I believe, he is a decent person but he doesn't communicate well with people and he has a way of rubbing players up the wrong way."
Hoddle made Gary Neville and David Beckham do the press conference two days after they were surprisingly left out of the team for the first game with no explanation from the manager.
"Lots of managers play mind games with the Press and with opposing teams," Beckham said. "Here, it seemed to me the England manager was playing mind games with his own players."
At least, for once, England's disarray ahead of a major tournament didn't get out into the Press. Not beforehand, anyway.
Just months later, though, Hoddle was gone after his controversial religion-fuelled beliefs about disabilities came to light, and it quickly became apparent why England had missed another great opportunity at a major tournament.
The article Five England pre-tournament dramas that put Gareth Southgate criticism into perspective appeared first on Planetsport.com.