You’re fulfilling every young boy’s dream

STILL, this day, he’s the only English player ever to win three league championships in three different countries. He’s won two league titles, an FA Cup, a European Cup Winners Cup and has also scored the 1,500th goal for England.

Yet, despite a trophy-laden career, spanning 17 years, nothing, he insists, will ever compare to playing in a World Cup.

Under the directorship of the late Sir Bobby Robson, Trevor Steven represented the Three Lions in two World Cup finals, in Mexico in 1986 and then Italy 1990, thus earning his place in football folklore.

Steven was one of the wounded eleven on the day Diego Maradona eliminated England in ‘86 with that infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal and was the next scheduled penalty-taker in that equally-heartbreaking shoot-out defeat against Germany four years later.

Now, World Cup time has come round again, and Steven can’t help but reminisce on the glory days.

“There’s just nothing like the World Cup,” said the City.A.M columnist. “It’s every young boy’s dream. I was lucky enough to win lots of championships and etch my name in the record books but the World Cups will always overshadow everything.

“Just to be there was a dream, but I’m proud to have taken an active part and feel like I’ve contributed in two World Cups. We got to the quarter finals and then the semi-finals and both eliminations were hard to take. It was certainly a case of what might have been.”

Twenty-four years on, Steven still hasn’t forgiven Maradona for his handball goal, inset, which sealed a 2-1 quarter-final victory, but the former Everton wide man welcomes his place in the archives.

“It was such a long time ago but, yes, it was foul play and you’ve got to have some bad feelings towards Maradona and Argentina,” he stated. “Up to that point I’d never really considered [Maradona] to be a controversial figure but he’d certainly become one after that.

“On a personal level it was great to say I was there but we lost and were denied the victory as well. It was reported as the Hand of God and it was all a little bit difficult to take because we were on our way home because of it. It changed the game, we had a really good chance up to that point.”

Four years later in Rome, Steven’s World Cup dreams were shattered again, this time at the semi-final stage. On as a second-half substitute for Terry Butcher in a new-look formation, Steven led the England recovery. Gary Lineker’s equaliser sent the game into extra time and after Chris Waddle hit the inside of a post, England’s fate was to be decided by the lottery of penalty kicks.

“If Chris had scored and we’d gone ahead then, they wouldn’t have caught us,” he recalled. “We were all hyperventilating, trying to catch our breath, there was no time to assess how we were feeling.

“All the two years of qualification, the preparation, came down to a penalty shoot-out. Peter Shilton didn’t get anywhere near their penalties but ours, in the main, were just scraping in.

“I was due to have the next penalty and I have no idea how I would have coped with it. I scored 25 out of 28 for Everton, but I could have been a hero or a villain. There must have been a million thoughts in those 50 yards from halfway line to penalty spot.”

Since then, England have suffered two further eliminations from shoot-outs, to Argentina in 1998 and Portugal in 2006, so with that dreadful experience in mind, Steven is just praying Fabio Capello’s England don’t experience the same hell this time round. “We have had some fantastic footballers, but somehow they’ve had a better mentality than we have from 12 yards,” he admitted. “I just really hope we don’t have to go through that again.”