The balls played down the left, it's flicked over the head of big Colin Hendry and battered into the bottom corner of the net, on the volley. England win and Euro 96 has started. Football's coming home is played across the stadium on the tannoy and suddenly, the nation remember why the love Paul Gascoigne.
A mere 6 years previously, every man, woman, brother, sister and great aunt fell in love with the bubbly geordie who captured the nations inspiration. Not just because of the tears, or the pranks - but his balance and poise, skill and strength. England had a worldbeater and becuase of that, people started to believe in their national team again. Since 1966, the England game endured a torrid couple of decades engulfed in underachievement and hooligism but 1990 marked a change. The start of an exciting decade, was epitomised by the iconic world cup in Italia.
Gazza helped England creep into the semis that year. Not quite the glory we all craved, yet it was surely the start of something special. Surely now, success was returning to the 'Birth of Football'. Gazza was now the poster boy of football - earning millions and wasting millions but still the best player on the pitch week in, week out. A scorer of wonderful goals was also prone to pick up injuries and this is someting that potentially cast a bleak shadow over the hopes of the England national team for the next few years as Gazza became all too used to sitting and watching, from the sidelines. A terrible euro 92 and failure to qualify for the world cup in 1994 was a disaster for the hopes of the country as Gascoignes prime as a player were cruely taken away from him - from both injuries and lack of talent around him. Just like that, the England team had slipped back into the dark ages.
Paul started to get his career back on track with a move to Italian Giants, Lazio and the announcement of England hosting The 1996 European Championships came at the best time possible. Guaranteed qualification, they focused on these championships as the perfect opportunity of bringing home the trophy and the emergence of a number of world class talents gave optimism to Gazza that this was the moment for him. The moment to once again, be the poster boy.
After a good spell in Italy, Gascoigne returned to the UK and battered in 19 goals in all competitions with Glasgow Rangers. He was confident and electric, just in time for the summer. He was the first name on the team sheet throughout the tournament that sunny June in 1996. England had picked up some confidence after a slow start against Switzerland in the opening game and Gazza was the focal point. The rallier of the troops, the fans favourite and the most likely match winner. The scots beaten 2-0 thanks to that iconic Gazza goal. The Dutch demolished 4-1 and the Spanish defeated on penalties. England had momentum.
It's the semis and like 1990, it was against the biggest rivals of them all - the Germans. A bright opening with a Shearer goal, followed up by an early equaliser from Germany made it a tight and cagey affair. As the match crept into extra time, England had the upper hand and there was only one winner. If only it could be a winner from Gazza, he would go down in history as the greatest - the adulation would be unreal. This was the chance. Alan had the ball and swung it in across the box, Paul was ahead of the defender and in space in the box - he checks and slides in order to poke the ball into the net - but it he is a studs width away. A studs width away from a golden goal winner and an appearance in the final. It wasn't to be.
Germany won that night, on penalties again and in that moment the hopes of the nation and the 'Footballs coming home' chants just stopped. Back to normal life for Gazza which was everything he didn't want. Gazza loved being around the lads, he loved the camaraderie and hated not playing for England. From that night in June 1996, Gazza never quite reached those dizzy heights. He was the man who could've brought home glory for the nation and live long in the history books - just like Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore have, as the winners of a major international competition. However, it just didn't work out that way - that was the last tournament he competed in and the last time he made people get off their seats at wembley.
What a shame.