Thursday 8 December 2016

Sometimes it is about team spirit

Joe Molloy

Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30

'Across his six years with England, nothing approached the sense of camaraderie and fun
created by Venables in ’96.' Photo by Mark Sandten/Bongarts/Getty Images
'Across his six years with England, nothing approached the sense of camaraderie and fun created by Venables in ’96.' Photo by Mark Sandten/Bongarts/Getty Images

We were joined by Robbie Fowler at our Off the Ball Roadshow in Dublin last night and invariably the routine failings of England were a topic of conversation.

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Fowler experienced very different England regimes across his career. At 21, he made a late burst to secure his spot in Terry Venables' Euro 96 squad. It remains his favourite England experience.

In his autobiography, Fowler recalls that "Venables had done his job perfectly because he had got the blend in the squad exactly right".

There was "no dominant clique, no imbalance between young or old or quiet or loud characters".

It was not a heaven he enjoyed again with England. Glenn Hoddle, who Fowler describes as "very strange", created an atmosphere which seemed to ostracise the fringe squad members; there was a divide between the starting players and the rest.

And he recalled the "incredible pressure" on players to go and see faith-healer Eileen Drury. Fowler claims he was told by Drury that he had "three demons" in his head and she couldn't work with him.

Ultimately, he remembers the Hoddle era as "boring and dull. You used to be desperate to go back to your club, to join the normal world again. It was straight up to the room, lock yourself in and only come out for training".

The Kevin Keegan era, he reckoned, lacked tactical nous and preparation.

As for Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fowler describes him as "a long-ball merchant". Fowler also bemoaned the absence of any team bonding under Eriksson. The days of the dentist chair had been replaced by the PlayStation.

Across his six years with England, nothing approached the sense of camaraderie and fun created by Venables in '96. It is an easily overlooked ingredient and one they've struggled with for 20 years.

Irish Independent

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