I had no idea whether I was going to get into the squad. I’d
had a lot of injuries that season, and in April I was selected for
an England B
game and Glenn Hoddle said:
“I want to take you but you’ve not played enough games.” I
didn’t think I was going. Then he announced a 30-man squad
with me in it, and we went to a training camp at La Manga.
Every session you’re trying to decipher what it means for your
place in the squad.
Eventually, those of us who made the 22 were told at the
hotel, all at the same time. It quickly came out that Paul
Gascoigne had been pretty unhappy at missing
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out, and that’s
what people remember. We’d been together for a while and all
of a sudden you’re losing some of your colleagues, and as
pleased as you are that you’re not one of them, watching
those guys head
out the door, seeing their sadness, that
wasn’t good for the group.
I think what Gareth has done is much better. There’s people
on standby but everybody knows where they stand. And I like
his squad: I think England have always picked players for
tournaments because of their reputation. This is the first time
I’ve seen a squad genuinely picked on merit.
In France we were in a hotel in the countryside. The facilities
were fantastic and we had some things to do – a pool table,
table tennis – but there’s only so much of that you can play.
There are going to be periods of boredom. When you’ve got
nothing to do you pick up a newspaper, and that’s when the
media scrutiny hits you, and if there’s negative press the
squad picks up on it pretty quickly. Gareth has been to
tournaments, he’ll know that and he’ll put something in place
to stop the boredom kicking in. I would have liked to go out on
some trips, to get the players in a group together, away from
the hotel. But then if results are bad everyone would have
complained that the players were off doing that rather than
concentrating on football.
We had a strong team in Japan, built on a strong defence. The
key was that we had played together for a long time. I knew
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Campbell’s game, Sol knew Ashley Cole’s game, I knew Gary
Neville’s game, or Danny Mills’s game [Neville missed the
tournament through injury]. When you’ve got those
relationships, it allows you to perform with confidence, and I
think that’s what this England team is missing.
There were a lot of injuries in the buildup – David Beckham
was coming back from a metatarsal, Kieron Dyer and Steven
Gerrard were both affected by injury and replacements were
flying in and out. I think if a player’s carrying an injury going
into a tournament, they’re never going to get fit enough to
come into the team and make a difference. Especially if it’s
your star man, the attention it creates, especially if that player
doesn’t play to his best, it has a negative impact on the squad.
You want to get rid of all that razzmatazz – a player needs to
have played at least a couple of games at the end of the
season, and the manager needs to be strong enough to make
He doesn’t have to only pick players who are in form, though.
You need people with international experience, who the
manager trusts, but if you’ve got a few players on the fringes
of the squad who were in form at the end of the season, they
can make a difference.
I have good memories of that World Cup. I think it was the
most well-organised tournament I went to. There were some
big distances to travel but the facilities were fantastic, the
pitches were first class and I think every detail was taken care
of perfectly. My family came out, and nobody had a murmur of
complaint. Plus we beat Argentina. We were a long way from
home but at a World Cup that doesn’t make a difference.
You’re in your bubble. You could be on the moon and it
wouldn’t make a difference.
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