It was surely the best place to start? Wembley Stadium: The home of English football’s finest hour, the twin towers and the stadium that Pele described upon its closure as the ‘cathedral of football’. It was Saturday 8th June 1991and I was part of the Larks Hill Junior School FC’s beano down to the capital for the Smith’s Crisps International Shield clash between England School boys and West Germany Schoolboys.
After a pop, crisp & Gameboy fuelled coach journey down south and a walk around the national stadium, I was given the proposition by my old man: ‘a flag or programme?’…stupidly I went for the flag, a decision that would cause extra disappointment 15 years later.
The match was very uneventful and finished goalless, the nearest I got to witnessing a goal was West Germany shooting into the side netting but I left Wembley thinking that I’d seen the future class of two great footballing nations and did so for years…it was the age of Robbie Fowler, Scholes, Beckham & at a push my future hero Noel Whelan.
Years of tracking down the programme ended in 2006 when I managed to land a copy via ebay but after excitingly opening the packaging, reading some of the names that played that day was met with a face of disappointment: Christopher Beech, David Faulkner, Nathan Murray & Richard Irving (now a commercial pilot according to Wikipedia), hardly the names of England’s ‘golden generation‘.
The most successful player to have featured for England that day was QPR’s Kevin Gallen, closely followed by Gavin McGowan (7 appearances for Arsenal) but the total number of senior caps won by the squad was zilch. There was one youngster who did go onto have a glittering career including scoring in the Champions League Final 16 seconds after coming onto the field as a substitute: Borussia Dortmund’s Lars Ricken. I suppose witnessing Lars’ first steps into international football will just have to do.