Trevor Steven: What it was like inside the England squad on the eve of the 1990 World Cup semi-final with West Germany

 
Trevor Steven
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Paul Gascoigne 1990 FIFA World Cup Semi Final England v West Germany
England faced West Germany in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, losing on penalties

The last 24 hours before a game always feels long but before our 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany it felt really, really long.

The whole England squad was on full alert; we could not have felt any more alive than we did in those moments.

Among the players there was a mixture of emotions, but I remember a realisation that we were suddenly very close to having the chance to win a World Cup. All English fans knew about the 1966 winners; this was like a shot at immortality.

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Bobby Robson was trying to keep everybody under control. It wasn’t an easy task for the manager because we had Paul Gascoigne in our squad, but all the same we were a group of professionals trying to focus on the task in hand.

On the evening before the game we trained at the stadium in Turin. I felt that a place in the team was still up for grabs because I had come off the bench and played well in the quarter-final win over Cameroon and training had been going extremely well that week.

During our finishing drills at the Stadio delle Alpi, I managed to score four in a row – each in a different way: left foot, right foot, header, half-volley. Bobby was saying to everyone: “Did you see that?”. I thought I was right in.

Then on the morning of the match we all went for a light walk to stretch the legs before sitting down for the team meeting. Bobby told us the starting XI. I wasn’t in it, but I quickly turned my thoughts to being prepared to come on if called upon.

Following lunch, we went back to the rooms we shared – I was paired with Gary Stevens – and tried to get some sleep. Napping when you’ve got a World Cup semi-final in a few hours isn’t easy; I was lost in my own thoughts.

Later, travelling to the stadium was like an out of body experience. Goodness knows what it would be like for a final.

I didn’t get to play from the start but I did get on for almost half of the 120 minutes. I came on for Terry Butcher, obviously not as a direct replacement for the centre-back but in a tactical rejig.

We were 1-0 down against a West Germany team featuring great players like Rudi Voller and Lothar Matthaus and I recall standing there, receiving final instructions from Bobby, about to step onto the pitch.

As I put my foot down over the touchline in a World Cup semi-final I thought: “No one can ever take this away from me.”

Terry Butcher and Paul Gascoigne of England
England and Gascoigne (right) just fell short of the final (Source: Getty)

Once the tournament had finished, I remember us all throwing Bobby in the swimming pool at the hotel.

It was a happy moment and a case of letting off some steam. It was the end of a journey that we knew we probably wouldn’t repeat – not for 28 years, as it turns out – and there was a lot of emotion that we didn’t know what to do with.

Back then we only had six or seven staff with us; Gareth Southgate and the current squad have dozens in their backroom team. It felt more raw and there wasn’t so much thought put into everything.

Southgate has done a great job, though. He deserves a lot of credit for protecting the players, letting them know what is expected and getting the mood in the camp right. Best of all he has got them to believe they can go further than we did in 1990.

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