Tony Adams reveals seven-week bender after England’s Euro 96 defeat that changed his life – The SunJanuary 30, 2022
IT WAS the best of times and the worst of times for Tony Adams.
Euro 96 began 20 years ago this week and would herald a glorious month for England and skipper Adams . . . until they agonisingly lost on penalties to Germany in the semi-finals.
Here, Arsenal legend Adams speaks to IAN RIDLEY about the drunken aftermath of the summer that football came home — and how he would NOT start with Wayne Rooney at this year’s tournament.
It was certainly the turning point in my career and my life.
We should have won that tournament. We had the best players. We were as technically good as anyone there.
But the Germans won it. What’s that about? Well, it shows something we should learn from.
You don’t have to have the best players. You have to be defensively strong and get the balance of the side right.
Then you need talent and luck, both of which the Germans had. And you need to be good at penalties.
This group? Well, you never know.
If we look at 12-year cycles, you have Denmark winning it in 1992, Greece in 2004 . . . and isn’t this the year of the underdog?
After vowing to stay off the booze during Euro 96, centre-half Adams famously went on a seven-week bender following the tournament before admitting he was an alcoholic. He has been sober ever since.
It changed my life, I had hit rock bottom. Yet, on the field, I think people saw me differently after that tournament. I lost the donkey tag and people saw I could play.
Nowadays, I get Manchester United, even Spurs fans coming up to me saying, ‘You did brilliant for England’.
It’s nice of them and I did have some good games during Euro 96, though sometimes we can romanticise.
We wobbled against Switzerland in the opening match but did the most important thing — made sure we didn’t lose the opener.
Then we weren’t great against Scotland, though the goals, including Gazza’s great one, gave us confidence for that game against Holland.
We won that match 4-1 and played football on another level, with Terry Venables’ coaching instrumental in that.
People will always remember that goal — Gazza to Teddy Sheringham to Alan Shearer.
Funny, I watched the game again recently and the Dutch did have some chances early on, I have to say.
It could have been different as it also could against Spain in the quarter-final.
They had a goal disallowed that wasn’t offside. I was pushing up trying to play offside. See, I did make mistakes! I really do think we should have beaten the Germans, though. We outplayed them.
Adams has spent the last year working for Azerbaijan Premier League club Gabala, first as head coach and then director of football.
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He is well aware of the euphoria still surrounding Euro 96 — and also understands those critics who wonder why England are marking another failure.
Yes, there has been a lot of fuss about just being semi-finalists but I suppose it was more about the mood and the atmosphere of the country at the time and the fact we hosted it.
I was in a bubble in the training camp concentrating on the games and only realised afterwards what a big thing it all was.
It made you feel good about being English.
Are we likely to feel good about being English this summer?
I think defensively we get pulled about a bit too much and we haven’t had the balance right.
The team is a bit like Arsenal these days — you’ve got good talent going forward but we’re a bit open and sometimes they leave the back door open.
The tough call for Roy Hodgson is Wayne Rooney.
It’s easy for us but Roy will get taken to the cleaners if he gets it wrong. Because he is the captain and there is not a lot of leadership elsewhere in the side, the temptation is to play him.
Personally, I wouldn’t. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy have been popping them in, so let them run.
You need experience at the back but I like the fearlessness of inexperience in attack, like Wayne himself showed at Euro 2004.
It doesn’t matter so much if you make mistakes there.
You can’t play all three of them in attack, as none of them really is best coming from wide.
I think Dele Alli can come from wide and links up well with Harry and on the other side I would play safe and start with James Milner, who does a good job defensively.
In the centre, Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere are the perfect balance for me.
You’ve got help for Eric to screen the defence and Jack adds a bit of creativity.
Then you can rotate the forwards, subbing on as games develop. Daniel Sturridge, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Wayne can all bring something.
But if we don’t get it right for the Russia game, we could be gone like we were in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after losing 2-1 to Italy. It’s super important.
Russia could set up a big strong wall and if we over-commit, they could pick us off on the break.
We might be able to beat Slovakia and Wales but don’t underestimate them.
To be honest, we’ve got the potential to win all three or lose all three. That’s how volatile it is.
Quarter-finals would be OK, semis pretty good. I don’t really see an outstanding side like Spain four years ago so, if our mentality is right, confidence could build if we get through the group.
THE SUN has made a donation for this article to Tony Adams’ charity, Sporting Chance, which provides treatment for sportsmen and women with addictive illnesses. He is currently working with Ian Ridley on Sober, the second volume of his autobiography after Addicted in 1998. Sober will be published next year by Simon & Schuster.
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