Trevor Steven: World Cup call-ups are the greatest feeling for a footballer but luck is always a factor

Trevor Steven
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England v Italy - International Friendly
Southgate has been the bearer of bad news this week (Source: Getty)

I was fortunate to be picked for four major international tournaments in a row with England and never had to deal with the devastating news that Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate will have had to deliver to those who missed the cut for his squad this week.

Bobby Robson took me to two World Cups in 1986 and 1990 as well as the 1988 European Championships. His successor Graham Taylor also selected me for the 1992 Euros.

It’s the greatest feeling ever when you’re picked for an England squad. It means you’ve got through an entire season and managed to stay fit and have played well enough to be in contention by the end of it.

When you get the nod it’s a massive relief. The last thing you want to do is go on holiday and watch what might have been because the World Cup is always such an amazing event to be a part of.

Read more: Opportunity knocks for England's attacking players

In 1990, I remember that selection was between Arsenal’s David Rocastle and myself for the right-wing berth. I got it but it could have so easily gone the other way.

We went to training in the morning as a provisional 28-man squad, came back to the hotel and then Bobby said: “Okay, we’ll have lunch and then I’ll speak to some players and let them know what’s happening”. It was as brutal as that and pure relief when I found out I’d got in.

For those who didn’t, they just wanted to get their bags and go. I can’t imagine how emotionally disturbing that was, to be training together in the morning and then by lunchtime your dream is finished.

1986 FIFA World Cup England 3-0 Paraguay
Trevor Steven in action for England at the 1986 World Cup (Source: Getty)

Ahead of the 1992 European Championships I couldn’t believe I wasn’t being picked by Taylor given I was playing for the French champions Marseille.

My teammate Chris Waddle was being ignored too, despite us both playing in the French league alongside players like Jean-Pierre Papin and Didier Deschamps. But playing abroad we never seemed to get a look in.

I got a late call-up, however, scored in a friendly in Moscow and all of a sudden I was a starter — from nowhere, so there’s always an element of good fortune involved.

Turning to the modern-day vintage, there’s been players ruled out through injury, such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and others like Adam Lallana whose persistent problems make them a doubt when otherwise they would both be shoo-ins. That creates the opportunity for some potential surprises today and I’m interested to see how things pan out.

Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who has played at two World Cups and two European Championships. @TrevorSteven63

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