We have read much about the celebrations inside Wembley following Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland at Euro 96, dentist’s chair and all.
But here is one joyous reaction we did not know about, nor would we have expected. It took place in a hotel near Manchester, where England’s eventual conquerors and tournament winners Germany were in residence.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the German captain, is talking to Sportsmail from the Californian countryside. His mind, however, is in rural Cheshire, back at his team’s base on Saturday June 15, 1996, exactly 25 years ago on Tuesday.
Paul Gascoigne doing the infamous ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration after scoring against Scotland
Jurgen Klinsmann reveals that he and Germany squad were transfixed by Gascoigne’s strike
‘We all watched that game,’ he begins. ‘We were just freaking out when Gascoigne scored that goal. Wow. Honestly, there is no German player who is not a fan of Gazza.
‘Then the celebration when Teddy (Sheringham) is squeezing the water bottle, it was fantastic.
‘But that game, England versus Scotland, it is one of the most intense experiences you can have as a neutral.
‘It’s like the Boca Juniors-River Plate derby. I went to that game and thought, “I might never get out of this stadium!”. The whole place was shaking.
‘That is like England and Scotland in 96 – two sets of amazing fans, pure excitement, pure entertainment. And then you have Paul Gascoigne on the field, that just takes it to another level… another level.’
Klinsmann and Gascoigne are intrinsically linked – Italia 90, Serie A, Spurs – but the German regrets what was too often a fleeting acquaintance.
Klinsmann and Gascoigne (left) are intrinsically linked – Italia 90, Serie A, Spurs
‘Unfortunately, we only ever really saw each other in the corridor here and there. I wish we’d had more time to talk at length.
‘But I was always a big admirer of Gazza, because he was a free spirit, he still is. When he was on the field, he was an artist. It’s like Maradona, he always said he was an artist. Gazza is the same.
‘You never knew what he would do next, and neither did he! A wonderful chap, a wonderful player.’
What is often forgotten amid talk of Gascoigne’s goal on that glorious, sunny afternoon at Wembley, is that earlier in the day an IRA bomb had exploded in Manchester city centre.
Remarkably, no one was killed, but 212 were injured. A telephoned warning had sparked the frenzied evacuation of 75,000 people.
Given some of the players’ families were among those hurried to safety, it is Klinsmann who reminds us of the terrorist attack.
Earlier in the day of England vs Scotland an IRA bomb had exploded in Manchester city centre
‘We had our families close by in a different hotel, and our wives and girlfriends went into Manchester during the day,’ he says.
‘The bomb attack shook everybody. Thank God that it was just one incident and there were no more attacks. We all feared something else would happen.’
Klinsmann scored twice as Germany beat Russia 3-0 at Old Trafford the following day, although the atmosphere around the game was one of apprehension.
The same could not be said of Wembley by the time Germany met England in the semi-final in front of 76,000. Klinsmann, though, was among the spectators.
‘I pulled my calf muscle in the quarter-final against Croatia. I’d never had a muscle injury in my life.
‘The kit manager, in the days before the game, had forgotten to put my extra insert in my boot, because I have a seven millimetre difference between both legs.
Klinsmann scored in the quarter-finals against Croatia before pulling a calf muscle
‘I trained for a couple of days with that difference, and it caused the injury.’
Klinsmann laughs when we suggest that England would have won had Gascoigne’s left leg been seven millimetres longer; reference, of course, to his agonising stretch at the far post as Alan Shearer’s cross flashed by in extra-time.
‘The luck was on our side,’ says Klinsmann, whose team won on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
‘It was such an open affair. It was the same in the 1990 semi-final, the exact same story, with us getting the luck and going on to win the final. The margins are so small in football, like Gascoigne’s chance.
‘If you go player by player through that England team from 96, it was easily good enough to win the tournament, no doubt. It’s just those little, tiny pieces that went against them.
‘That England generation of the 90s, they deserved to win a title.’
Gascoigne was just a whisker away from making it 2-1 to England in extra time in the semi-final
There was one benefit to missing the game for Klinsmann.
‘It forced me to watch from the stands,’ says the 56-year-old. ‘That is why I can talk about the atmosphere, the whole stadium erupting when they were singing Football’s Coming Home.
‘It gave you chills, it didn’t matter whether you were English or German – that was unforgettable.’
Rather than celebrate in the wake of Gareth Southgate’s miss and Andreas Moller’s winning penalty, Klinsmann made for Sheringham, his former Spurs team-mate.
‘Everyone at White Hart Lane became part of my life, a special family. Teddy and Darren Anderton were part of that. I felt for them. They deserved to go to the final just as much as we did, like in 1990.’
Klinsmann refuses to crow about either of his semi-final victories against England, and there is also humility over the fortunate manner of Germany’s winning goal in the final against Czech Republic.
Klinsmann proved his fitness with a run in Regent’s Park on the day of the final at Wembley
First, though, the striker had to prove he was able to play. On the day before the final, he took a fitness test – in London’s Regent’s Park.
‘Ah, no one stopped me. That’s the beauty of London, it’s so cosmopolitan. I always ran around London.
‘When I played for Spurs, I lived in Hampstead and ran on Hampstead Heath. There were never any problems.
‘But that day before the final, there was no chance I could play. I could only jog for 15 minutes in Regent’s Park.
‘The doctor, Hans Muller-Wohlfahrt, said, “No, let’s wait. We have another 24 hours. I’m positive, you will make the field tomorrow”.
‘On the morning of the final I did another test, and the pain was gone. I even played extra time!’
Oliver Bierhoff was set up by Klinsmann for a 95th-minute winner against the Czech Republic
It was during that ‘Golden Goal’ additional period – at 1-1 in the 95th minute – that Klinsmann found strike partner Oliver Bierhoff inside the penalty area.
‘Oliver took a shot, but it was deflected and had no pace at all. Usually, the goalkeeper would catch it and we move on.
‘I saw the shot and thought, “OK, the goalkeeper (Petr Kouba) has it”. I was almost running back into position.
‘But it slipped through his hands and into the net. It was sad for him. Deciding a game like that, with a mistake, it will follow him for the rest of his life.
‘We also had to understand that the game was actually over! Golden Goal was new, we weren’t at all used to it. It felt really weird.
‘After a couple of seconds thinking about what has happened, only then can you start to celebrate.’
A photo of the Queen presenting Klinsmann with the trophy is on display at the German’s home
For all we, the English, love nothing more than to reminisce and indulge in the nostalgia of that summer, it is just as special for the Germans.
Klinsmann still has a picture inside his Californian home of the Queen presenting him with the trophy, while a 25-year reunion of the squad is planned for September.
It is interesting to note that, while West Germany won the World Cup in 1990 and Germany in 2014, the team from Euro 96 are just as revered in their homeland, for it was the country’s first trophy post unification.
Even from the other side of the world, Klinsmann has nothing but enthusiasm for a journey into the past, and he isn’t done with his stories yet.
‘We had a funny experience when we were flying back to Frankfurt,’ he goes on. ‘Suddenly, two fighter jets were alongside our aircraft. I screamed to my wife, “Look outside the window!”.
‘The fighter pilots were waving at us from the cockpit, they were so close! They gave us an escort into the airport. That is something you never forget.’
Germany’s Euro 96-winning squad are as revered as the victorious squads of 1990 and 2014
Nor is the reception at Frankfurt City Hall, where Klinsmann took the mic and sang Football’s Coming Home to 20,000 supporters.
‘Most of the fans were not that aware of the song,’ he laughs. ‘We lived it and sang it through the tournament, because we liked it. In fact, we loved it!
‘So we were singing this song on the balcony and part of the crowd didn’t really get it.
‘But we hadn’t slept one second between the final and getting there, not that we cared. We became very popular in Germany after that.’
They might never enjoy the same popularity on these shores, but it is hard not to admire and enjoy Klinsmann.
Jurgen Klinsmann is part of the BBC Football team. Follow Euro 2020 on the BBC across TV, radio and online.