Darren Anderton set up one of the most famous goals in English football, yet found himself having to remind people of his involvement.
Paul Gascoigne’s “iconic” strike for England against Scotland at Wembley during Euro 96, which happened 25 years ago this week, has stood the test of time.
Gascoigne flicked the ball over the sprawling Colin Hendry and fired home a volley into the bottom corner to give the Three Lions a 2-0 lead in the crucial game against the Auld Enemy, who visit Wembley on Friday in this summer’s edition of the tournament.
It put them on their way to qualification to the knockout stages and gave everyone belief that football was coming home.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 15, 2021
While Gascoigne’s finish was the result of a sublime piece of skill, it was created by the vision of Anderton, whose first-time pass sent his team-mate clear into the box.
Not that many people remember, as Anderton has found out in the past.
Asked how it felt to be involved in such a memorable moment, he told the PA news agency: “Of course it made me feel great and it does make me laugh because I have had conversations with people.
“I remember someone once said to me, ‘I was at the England v Scotland game, you should have been there, it was unbelievable’. And I just went, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, I passed him the ball’.
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way and people just laughed, the poor guy was mortified.
“My career was more of being a player that set up goals rather than score goals so any goal you are involved in gives you great pleasure and especially in such a huge game and an iconic goal.”
Anderton’s creative moment came in a mad two minutes which started with David Seaman saving Gary McAllister’s penalty. From a dead-ball after the resulting corner, the Arsenal goalkeeper kicked it long, Teddy Sheringham laid it off to Anderton and the rest is history.
It was a quick turnaround in emotions for the Three Lions, who had a sense of deja vu having squandered a one-goal lead in their opening match against Switzerland.
“First I thought, ‘Oh s**t, what have we done’. We played great, got a really good goal from Alan Shearer and once the penalty is given your thoughts are just deja vu,” Anderton said.
“It was exactly the same as against the Swiss and it was like, ‘Oh my Lord, we are going to get battered’.
“Then Dave makes a great save and from the goal-kick the ball went to Teddy, I saw Gazza making his run and I knew Teddy would play it off nice and simple.
“I played Gazza in and once that ball went into his path it was a bit like slow motion, I thought like everyone else, ‘hit it, hit it’, but he flicked it up in the air and then it was just magical.
“As it came down in the air you just knew that this was the goal, it was the goal he was dreaming about all summer, for him to score against Andy Goram, one of his best mates, meant a lot to him I am sure.
“It was just magical and he answered the criticism with his celebration. That is what Gazza is all about, he is a genius. It was unreal.
“That was the start of the tournament for us, it was a really special time and a relief for sure.
“The relief of winning the game was immense, not just for the players, for the fans for everyone, it changed everything that happened that summer. You can’t underplay it.
“The (Three Lions) song came on after the game, no one would leave and we just enjoyed it.”
For a week or so, it felt as if football was coming home, as England destroyed Holland 4-1 in another thrilling game and they even won a penalty shootout against Spain in the quarter-finals.
But then came Germany and the usual heartbreak followed, with Anderton hitting the post, Gascoigne’s split-second hesitation and Gareth Southgate’s penalty.
Anderton added: “Against Germany we felt if we won that we would go on and win the tournament. It was just as good a performance as against Holland in my opinion, just without the goal.
“They had a bit of luck with the equaliser, I hit the post and then Gazza stops his run and doesn’t get on the end of it. It was millimetres with both of those opportunities.
“We were the better team and that is the frustration of it all. People come up to me and talk to me still about it being amazing, saying they loved that team and what a great summer.
“What would it have been like if we won that tournament? We really would have been proper legends. Twenty five years on you talk about Euro 96 with a smile on your face, always, but there is always that tinge of sadness and regret that we didn’t win the tournament we were probably the best team in.”
As well as Gascoigne’s goal standing the test of time, so has that summer’s anthem, Three Lions by the Lightning Seeds and Baddiel and Skinner.
After all this time, how does Anderton feel when he hears it?
“It makes me feel very proud. The song gives me goosebumps every single time, still,” he admitted. “I showed my American wife the footage of before the Germany game when the whole crowd were singing.
“It was just a magical time, it gives me goosebumps to talk about it, even though it is 25 years later.”