England's Euro 96 build up was wild as ITV relives the tournament

ITV will try and perk up the nation with a FULL re-run of Euro ’96. So as England ‘kick-off’ against the Swiss tonight, re-live the afternoon when Gazza and Co tried to make us forget all about their boozy ‘dentist’s chair’

  • England players prepared for Euro 1996 with a pre-tournament trip to Asia 
  • Terry Venables wanted his squad to escape the pressure and boredom at home
  • But the booze-fuelled trip to China and Hong Kong was not ideal preparation
  • England returned under intense scrutiny after being pictured on a wild night out
  • They drew the first match of the tournament against Switzerland at Wembley  
  • ITV are reliving the tournament in its entirety to give football fans a fix of action

In the lead up to Euro 1996 England manager Terry Venables had an idea.

He wanted his players to escape the fishbowl that would inevitably surround them in the weeks before the tournament. He also wanted to avoid boredom setting in.

So, in a bid to keep the minds of his players fresh and harness as much unity within the squad as possible, he whisked them off on a pre-tournament trip to China and Hong Kong.

(L to R) Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp visit The Great Wall of China during England’s trip to Asia before the start of Euro 96

Paul Gascoigne signs a ball for fans after training during the tour of China and Hong Kong

Hindsight would suggest it was a mistake. A booze-filled jolly to the other side of the world was not exactly ideal preparation for a tournament – which ITV is poised to relive in its entirety in the coming weeks – and the squad returned with their tails between their legs. 

The England players, particularly Paul Gascoigne, started the trip strong. Writing in his autobiography, former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler said: ‘The tone was set on the flight out. 

‘Gazza got involved in a row with one of the stewards on the plane, and ended up having a bit of scrap. The pilot saw his a*** and said that he was going to stop the plane in Russia and boot us all off!’. 

Fortunately, Fowler and Co made it to their final destination. A 3-0 win over China in their final warm-up game wrapped up the tour nicely but did spark a night of chaotic celebrations as Gazza celebrated turning 29.

‘Venables gave us the night off to have a blast,’ Fowler revealed… and boy did they.

Photos surfaced on the front page of the papers the next morning of various members of the squad laying on their back while a concoction of alcoholic drinks were poured down their throats. 

The players looked dishevelled and disorderly, like a stag do rather than a group of elite sportsmen about to embark on a major competition. Surely there was no chance they were going to be a force at the impending tournament.

A giant replica of the European Championship trophy is unveiled in the Opening Ceremony

Gazza played against the Swiss but England made a less-than-convincing start

England players celebrate with Alan Shearer after he scored the opening goal at Wembley

‘DISGRACEFOOL’ read The Sun’s withering front page, describing Gazza as ‘a drunken oaf with no pride.’ 

Things went from bad to worse with the news that two screens on the plane they returned home on had been smashed.

The airline was demanding £5,000 in compensation because Gascoigne, who was drunk again and left riled by a smack on the head allegedly from Alan Shearer, did the damage through rage, though the squad came together and took the blame at first. 

‘We pay lip service to drunken, flatulent, screen-smashing yobs by calling them heroes, aware that if they were unable to kick a ball in approximately the right direction they would be up in court,’ Sportsmail’s Jeff Powell wrote.


England: Seaman, G Neville, Adams, Southgate, Pearce, Anderton, Ince, Gascoigne (Platt 77), McManaman (Stone 70), Sheringham (Barmby 70), Shearer.

Goals: Shearer 23

Booked: G Neville, Adams 

Manager: T Venables 

Switzerland: Pascolo, Jeanneret, Henchoz, Vega, Quentin, Vogel, Geiger (Koller 71), Sforza, Bonvin (Chapuisat 67), Grassi, Turkyilmaz.

Goals: Turkyilmaz 83

Booked: Vega, Quentin, Vogel, Grassi

Manager: A Jorge 

‘Even now when I see those pictures I think, ah Jesus,’ wrote Fowler. ‘They look terrible.’ Speaking about the dentist’s chair, the former Liverpool striker added: ‘We all got in, all had a laugh, drank a few beers, sang a few songs and went home. No problem, not even that p*****.’

‘When people are trying to pour several bottles down at once, it’s physically impossible to drink a lot,’ McManaman added in an interview with FourFourTwo.

‘I think people drank for about a second, got drenched and then quickly got out.’

There was now no escaping the attention on England that Venables had hoped to avoid by going to Asia and all eyes turned to the opening match of the competition.

ITV are showing the whole tournament again in the coming weeks to ease football fans’ starvation during the coronavirus shutdown.

The coverage will begin on Monday night with England’s opener against Switzerland. 

Wembley was the venue for the curtain raiser and Ramon Vega, a member of the Swiss squad, admitted England’s antics during the build up gave them hope. 

He told The Independent: ‘We saw it in the Swiss squad and were saying “wow, this is some preparation for the opening game, seeing the hosts getting drunk in Hong Kong”. We thought we may have a chance here.’

There was inevitably huge pressure on England going in but that was ramped up by the fact they were hosting the tournament.

The England striker wheels away in delight after finding the back of the net against Switzerland

England suffered heartbreak when the Swiss side equalised from the penalty spot late on

England had drawn a tough group in the Swiss, fierce rivals Scotland and Holland – who Venables thought were the team to beat – and he knew they must get off to the perfect start in front of a feverish home crowd. 

On a searing day in London, Wembley hosted an uninspiring 1-1 draw as England surrendered the lead in the second half. 

Shearer ended his own lengthy goal drought with a fine finish in the first half but Kubilay Turkyilmaz equalised with a penalty after a Stuart Pearce handball as England lost control of the game in front of a nervous capacity crowd.

Despite the furore at their pre-tournament antics, a few England players chose to drown their sorrows after the Switzerland game at a nightclub in Ilford, which drew more unwanted press.

Gazza went on to recreate the dentist’s chair moment with this celebration against Scotland having just scored a stunning goal to kickstart England’s tournament and run to the semis

But then everything changed. Gazza scored THAT goal against Scotland – the impressive strike matched by the dentist chair celebration – Skinner and Baddiel’s Three Lions started roaring out of every speaker and a thumping win over the Dutch propelled England into the knockout stages.

We know the rest… heartbreak on penalties, Gareth Southgate missing as the nation watched on heartbroken. But what a ride it was.

Now England manager, Southgate is always looking for innovative ways to get the best out his squad. One thing is for certain though, there will be no boozy pre-tournament trip to Asia planned when Euro 2020 eventually takes place.

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