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How Missing That Penalty Back In Euro 96 Made Gareth Southgate The Man He Is Today

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How Missing That Penalty Back In Euro 96 Made Gareth Southgate The Man He Is Today

We've all become acutely aware of the imminent return home of football.

Those three words - shared, memed, passed like whispered sweet-nothings between discreet lovers - have taken over our lives since Tuesday night's penalty shootout victory over Colombia.

That England won a penalty shootout is amazing, but that it happened under the tenure of Gareth Southgate is nigh on impossible.

(L-R) Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Harry Maguire and John Stones. Credit: PA
(L-R) Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Harry Maguire and John Stones. Credit: PA
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It was he who missed the original penalty, the one that reversed original homeward truck of football away from Dover, rolling a weak effort into the waiting arms of Andreas Köpke and allowing the Germans to punt England out of Euro 96.

Let me take you back to that day, the 26th of June, 1996.

I was six, sat cross-legged on my living room floor. England, believe it or not, were not awful at penalties.

They had a one and one record, the one victory having come four days earlier against Spain. Stuart Pearce, the proto-Southgate, had avenged his miss in the 1990 World Cup with an emphatic finish against the Spanish.

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England were, I repeat, not crap at penalties before: they'd actually scored all four against Spain and all of the first five against Germany.

It was only Gareth Southgate who missed: he created a paralysis, a mental block that lasted for the next four shootouts, which they would lose all of.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The pariah status came overnight: though Batty, Ince, Beckham, Vassell, Lampard, Gerrard, Carragher, Young and Ashley Cole have all missed since, they are not as synonymous with failure as Southgate.

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"I've learned a million things from that day and the years that followed it," Southgate told media recently.

"When something goes wrong in your life it doesn't finish you and you should become braver, knowing that you've got to go for things in life and don't regret because you didn't try to be as good as you might be."

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In many ways, it needed Southgate to break the streak. No man could have so succinctly told his players just what to do, or not to, in such situations.

Their cross is one that he has borne for twenty-two years. When Henderson missed, he joined that long list above in people who are not Gareth Southgate, but have Southgate there for them to take the flak.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

As for the man himself - this is his redemption. He took the job because nobody wanted it, with no expectations and the simple task of making the team better than they were before.

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Whatever the result on Saturday, he has done that. This is a team in his image: humble, understated, calm.

For himself, the redemption is complete. He's no longer that guy that missed the penalty.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: SPORT, UK News, Russia 2018, England, Gareth Southgate, World Cup

Mike Wood
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