David Seaman is adamant that something special awaits England this summer. It will be difficult for them to match the ecstasy and agony of Euro 96, of course, but all the signs are pointing towards a strong run at this year’s tournament.
His playing days are over, but the deep-rooted passion for the Three Lions remains. An excitement over what could be for Gareth Southgate’s talented current crop is clear during his chat with Sportsmail, which comes just four days before England open their campaign against Croatia.
Seaman famously reached the semi-finals on home soil – being the hero in the quarter-final shootout against Spain – although the nation’s hopes came crashing down with one fateful penalty miss from Gareth Southgate. Having played every minute of every game, it was a harsh final chapter for the defender, who was painfully scapegoated after the showpiece.
David Seaman has shared his excitement ahead of England’s Euro 2020 campaign this summer
Now though, he stands at the helm of the national team, and once again the country is leaning on him in search of success. Southgate has certainly impressed in his role, having drawn plaudits for his leadership on a wide range of issues, but Seaman for one is pleasantly surprised to see his former team-mate in the dugout.
‘It wasn’t something that I thought Gareth would get into,’ Seaman admits. ‘He was always a guy that would be in the background. I wouldn’t say he was shy, but he wasn’t up for passing all the jokes.
‘You look at him and Gazza [Paul Gascoigne], there’s a big difference in personality. Gareth was always tactically very aware, and that’s what’s not surprised me. He’s obviously taken that into his managerial career with Middlesbrough and the England Under-21s, and now with the first team.’
Gareth Southgate leads the Three Lions into the European Championships for the first time
Seaman was an England team-mate of Southgate, and is surprised he decided to be a manager
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Southgate after his retirement. He stepped straight in at Middlesbrough, who he played for between 2001 and 2006, and lasted three years before being sacked. After that came the England U21 job, and his big break in 2016 when Sam Allardyce was sacked.
‘He’s done brilliantly. He’s taken to it really well,’ Seaman adds. ‘The best thing for him was the fact that he’d been the U21 manager. He coached a lot of the lads who are now in the first team. That got him the respect he needed when he first went into the job. You look at him now, and he’s a proper England manager.
‘He’s tactically very aware, on and off the field. He’s got a great team around him. He looks the part.’
A promising run to the final four at the 2018 World Cup has reignited hope that England can win a first trophy since 1966, and the apathy towards the team that had taken its toll after a series of disappointments looks to have, for now, vanished.
England head into the Euros with a talented squad and the nation hopes they go all the way
Southgate has been blessed with a welcome selection headache and his 26-man group is filled to the brim with options. It is this strength in depth that Seaman believes sets England in very good stead.
‘I’ve looked forward to it because we’ve got a really good squad. It’s not just a good team,’ Seaman says, speaking ahead of the launch of Sky Mobile’s new #SkyMobileGoals campaign. ‘When you look at the players who are left out the XI, there’s some real quality there.
‘These are exciting times, coming off the back of Russia. We did really well, unexpectedly well I suppose. Going into this now, there’s going to be expectation and pressure. But the team that we’ve got is really good.’
As was the side Terry Venables had at his disposal in ’96. Seaman starred at that tournament, pulling off a host of saves that have forever been etched into the history books. His penalty heroics – also saving from Scotland’s Gary McAllister in the group stage – sent the nation into hysterics, and as a result he is widely-renowned as one of the finest England goalkeepers of all time.
Goalkeeper Seaman enjoyed his fair share of highlights with England, particularly at Euro 96
So much so that Peter Schmeichel, once a fierce rival to Seaman down the opposite end of the field during their days in the Premier League with Manchester United and Arsenal, believes the now 57-year-old remains England’s last genuine No 1 stopper.
His humble nature sees Seaman accept the compliment with a little smile, and he quickly turns his attention to the Three Lions’ current options between the sticks this summer – Jordan Pickford, Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone.
‘It’s a great compliment to come from a goalkeeper of that quality,’ Seaman says. ‘We had some great battles in the 90s and early noughties. When he said that, I can understand what he means, it’s just that we (England) have not really done anything.
‘We’ve just managed to qualify in competitions, and then not really made any memorable contributions, although obviously in Russia we did. Jordan really stood up. He took my record away as the last goalkeeper to ever win a penalty shootout, which was in Euro 96, way too long.
Jordan Pickford is the current No 1 choice for Southgate and Seaman has praised the stopper
‘Looking forward, Jordan’s by far the England No 1 because of what he’s done in the past. People will say he’s made mistakes for Everton, but he hasn’t let England down. You can’t disregard all that experience he’s got, and he’s shown he can handle the pressure. Trust me, playing in a World Cup, it’s massive pressure.
‘He stepped up and did it. When you look at the others like Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone, Sam had an amazing debut (against Romania). He made a fantastic save and kept a clean sheet, that’s all that you can ask for.
‘In Henderson, you’ve got a goalkeeper there who’s already done it with Sheffield United and he’s now doing it with Manchester United.’
The three men hoping to play against Croatia and keep their spot have likely looked at Seaman for guidance. The former Arsenal man is one of the best to have pulled on the gloves for his country, and he has the highlights reel to prove it.
Seaman had memorably saved Gary McAllister’s penalty in 96′ as England beat Scotland 2-0
A conversation with Seaman, even all these years on, just isn’t complete with him casting his mind back to his display against Scotland, when England won 2-0 and Gascoigne pulled out the dentist’s chair.
The life of a goalkeeper can be lonely, and their careers are made solely around the shots they keep out. Seaman was no different, and his legendary status was underlined by earning the clean sheet against the ‘Auld Enemy’.
‘The save I made against Scotland from Gordon Durie with my left hand, right down the post, and Gary McAllister’s penalty, those are iconic moments for me,’ Seaman says when asked to pick out his favourite memories from the Euros.
‘My great mate Gazza stole my glory 90 seconds later with the little tap-in goal that he scored! It was an unbelievable goal, and I’m so glad it happened. Gazza was under a lot of pressure before the tournament, there was even talk of people trying to get him out of the squad.
Seaman hailed Paul Gascoigne as his ‘great mate’ and opened up on his goal against Scotland
‘Just through some party tricks that we had, it got out of hand. We went: “Come on lads, this is what we can do. Gazza can score goals like that and the team can play like this.” It got better and better. The Holland game (4-1 to England) was unreal, and then we got to the Spain game. For me to save the deciding penalty was just awesome.’
England may be on a high currently, but Arsenal certainly aren’t. A below-par campaign saw them finish eighth in the top-flight and miss out on European football for next season.
Seaman played for the club for 13 years, and the affection hasn’t faded one bit. He still uses the term ‘we’ when delving into their many problems, and is clearly desperate for them to recover from their slump and challenge the elite again.
‘When you look at last season, finishing eighth, it’s very disappointing,’ Seaman insists. ‘It’s something that needs to be changed. I feel a little bit sorry for (Mikel) Arteta because he’s not got his own team yet, or his own squad.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal endured a below-par season and Seaman says consistency is the issue
‘He’s inherited players from previous managers. But he’s got to coach those around him to get the best out of them. We saw with winning the FA Cup and then the Community Shield, I would call those bonuses, because that season wasn’t very good either. It’s the consistency that’s the problem.
‘All of a sudden we beat Liverpool and Chelsea, then we lost to lower teams. That’s his biggest problem. Do we need players? Yes we do. I still feel that the spine of the team isn’t strong enough.
‘They need a good defender and midfield player. We need a more consistent attacking player. In (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang, we do have a quality player. Last season, with all the different problems that he had, he wasn’t consistent enough. But you know the quality he’s got, so you don’t really change that.
‘(Thomas) Partey in midfield has done well, I like what I see with him. I want to see a more consistent season from him and hopefully that’s going to happen next year.’
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was guilty of a stop-start campaign but Seaman likes his ‘quality’
The pressure is truly on with the race for the Champions League and Europa League spots getting tighter and tighter every year. Billionaire Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is ready to launch a new £2billion takeover bid, and Seaman believes now is the time for the hierarchy to fully commit and pump money into the team.
‘The board need to decide what they want to do,’ he explains. ‘Do they want to be a successful business, or do they want to be as successful on the pitch? That means you’ve got to spend money to get players.
‘It’s a big time in Arsenal’s history. We can’t get any worse than what we’re doing now because that’s not acceptable. We really need to realise what’s going on. A lot of clubs are catching Arsenal up.’
Seaman, now an avid supporter, will watch Southgate and England at Euro 2020 from home
The rebuild at the Emirates must wait though, with international football coming to the fore for at least the next month. Seaman has said he plans to take in all the action from the comfort of his own home once again, and there may even be the occasional fishing trip to look forward to as well.
‘I’ve even watched an Arsenal game while I was fishing. I ran out of data, so I learned that lesson really quickly,’ Seaman says, unable to stop himself from giggling away.
There will certainly be a few stolen glances at games from underneath the table for him, but Seaman – once a titan for England and now a boisterous, loyal supporter – hopes this year they can go all the way and finally put those Euros demons to rest.
Sky Mobile is working with football legend, David Seaman, to launch #SkyMobileGoals.
Throughout the Euros tournament, customers will be rewarded with free data each time England, Scotland and Wales score a goal.
To find out more visit https://www.sky.com/shop/pre-reg/back-of-the-net.