European Championships 1996: "No regrets" says Craig Brown
CRAIG Brown was kind enough to reminisce with The Away End about the summer of 1996, when he led Scotland south to only their second ever European Championship tournament. He reveals he has no regrets, unlike France 98 where a certain Ally McCoist still haunts him.
I always go to a draw and think we'll take what we get, but when we got England obviously there was big excitement, because it was England. Terry Venables was there, he was delighted and we were delighted, obviously because it was a very appealing game and it became a massive ticket scramble if I remember.
My memories are quite distant and vague, but apart from Paul McStay - who was injured - I don't think there was anyone missing from that squad. That would probably be the strongest squad we could have taken.
Every time I went to a World Cup with Scotland, we lost a key player. Even way back in 1986 when Alex Ferguson was manager in Mexico we lost Kenny Dalglish. And in 1990 when we went to Italy with Andy Roxbrough, Davie Cooper and John Robertson weren't fit. Then in 1998 when we went to France and Gary McAllister got injured just before the World Cup.
Now, in 1996, I don't think there was a calamitous injury. These three World Cups, we lost not just a player but a key player; Dalgish was a key player, Cooper we felt would have been a key player, and definately McAllister was a key player. But in Euro 96 they were all fit that I can remember, so there wasn't a major selection dilemma.
They'd lost only three goals in ten games qualifying, and it was the same as the World Cup qualifying where we again lost only three goals in ten games, which was a compliment to our back three and goalkeeper.
The hardest decision was to leave Jim Leighton out who had played very well in the qualification games, and use Andy Goram. So that was a difficult decision to make.
The major disappointment was the England game.
In the first game against Holland, they played well. And Holland didn't manage to score which they were doing quite freely in qualification; I think they had a terrific number of goals scored, 23 goals in their group. The key to that really was to ensure Dennis Berkamp didn't function, like he usually did playing off the front. They had Patrick Kluivert up front, and usually had Marc Overmars (serious injury kept him out of Euro 96), so the front three were brilliant.
The Holland game was a good start to get a draw there, but England was a major disappointment to miss the penalty, and Paul Gascoigne scored that fantastic goal.
A game against England doesn't need much motivation, because the fact that it's England is enough. You don't need to blow the bagpipes or wave claymores about, they know the importance of a game against England.
The one thing I missed, and they tell me it was fabulous, was at half-time with the Scottish fans, they seemed to be very good in the stadium. When you're with the team you don't see these things, you don't even hear them because you're in the dressing room, but it appears the fans were in excellent form.
By the time players are international players, and this was an experienced international team, there's a calm assurance about them. They're not over nervous, they're keyed up but they're ready for it. And they've got a bit of composure and assurance about them, which that team had. You felt when that team went out they weren't going to lose.
We reckoned without Gascoigne's brilliance. The thing about it was is that they were taking him off - he hadn't done a thing prior to that. He had been well snuffed out, particularly by Stuart McCall who played very well against him, and then all of a sudden I see them getting the board out, and before they've got the board up he's scored a wonder goal.
The Switzerland game, to only get the one goal after being so dominant was a major disappointment aswell, but at one point during that game we were through until England conceded a goal.
How far could we have gone? Well I think that's a hypothetical question. There was a wee bit of momentum going, you never know what could have happened had we got to the quarter finals, but we didn't and that's it. It's the old story, the hard luck story.
I don't think there's anything I'd have done differently in all honesty. You could say we could have had a different penalty taker but that would have been quite harsh. Gary McAllister was always a very efficient penalty taker.
When you compare it to the World Cup 1998, there are things I'd have done differently there. I'd have taken Ally McCoist in the squad, although he only played eleven games for Rangers that season. I didn't, and that was a mistake in hindsight.
You might disagree, or people might disagree, but when you look back at the squad that was picked it was a good as squad as was available and I don't think it could have been much different, it picked itself really.
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