Date: 5th September 2015 at 9:00am
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Now the transfer doo-dah is over and done with, it’s time to re-focus and enjoy the international break.

On Saturday evening, European minnows San Marino welcome an in-form England side to the Stadio Olimpico (no, not the one you’re thinking of).

18th November 2014 - International Friendly Football - Scotland v England - England manager Roy Hodgson - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

If you love ridiculous goals, follow Jamie Vardy’s career closely and have a soft spot for Roy Hodgson’s rather lackadaisical management style, then this is the game for you.

In the five meetings between the two sides, England have managed to net a rather farcical total of 32 goals – shipping in just one in the process. This stat shouldn’t really shock anyone though. Until November 2014, San Marino were ranked as the world’s worst international side!

England have had some naff managers over the years. Perhaps though, conceding a goal against the worst side in the world ranks Graham Taylor as the biggest ‘turnip’ to ever take up the post!

A little bit of context… In a 1993 tie against San Marino, England needed a seven-goal swing to ensure their passage into the 1994 World Cup. And, against a side who had shipped 39 goals in just nine games, this seemed an inevitability.

A grand total of 2000 expectant England fans donned their Sergio Tacchini jackets and headed on mass to the lovely Italian city of Bologna to face the newly-established international minnows. The scene was set for England to romp to victory…and they did. Except, it wasn’t enough.

In possibly the greatest moment of San Marino’s history, and just eight seconds into the game, computer salesmen Davide Gualtieri ran through on David Seaman’s goal, slotting the ball into the bottom corner. For 20 minutes, they led England. The mighty England. An England side who boasted the likes of Premier League top scorer Ian Wright and ‘psycho’ himself, Stuart Pearce. Was it England’s darkest ever moment? Hhhhmmm, let’s ask Steve McClaren what he thinks…

Anyway, let’s have a look at the England side of that night. What ever happened to the humiliated stars and, where are they now?

Goalkeeper: David Seaman

18/6/96 European Championships 1996. England Holland v England David Seaman applauds the fans after England's victory against Holland Credit: Offside / Mark Leech

Then: In 1993, Seaman was regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers in Europe. The former Leeds United academy graduate had been at Arsenal since 1990 and had just become England’s undisputed number one. He was dependable more than anything. Known for his leadership skills and ability to command his area, Seaman always seemed to perform when he was needed. Not sure about the moustache though!

Now: 51-year-old Seaman is long retired from the professional game and currently offers his goalkeeping expertise to his former club, Arsenal. In terms of his domestic career, Seaman remained as Arsenal’s leading goalkeeper until the 2003-2004 season. Internationally, he continued as England’s number one goalie until his retirement; post World Cup 2002. At the tournament, Seaman received severe media scrutiny after allowing a tame Ronaldinho free-kick to loop over his head in the quarter-final.

Right-Back: Lee Dixon

Then: The San Marino game didn’t just ruin the international career of Graham Taylor. Right-back Lee Dixon’s dismal performance against San Marino meant that he would never play regularly for England again. After Terry Venables took over in 1994, Dixon struggled to get back into the international mix and had to sit back as a young Gary Neville slowly capitalised on the positional limbo. For his club side, Arsenal, Dixon had been – and continued to be – a hugely influential player.

Now: Dixon continued to be an influential member of Arsenal’s furniture until his retirement in 2002. His England career, on the other hand, never managed to recover from the San Marino tie. After retiring, Dixon took up a punditry role at the BBC – offering his insights on both “Football Focus” and “Match of the Day”. In 2012, Dixon jumped shipped and joined rival broadcaster ITV. However, after losing their Champions League rights for the 2015-2016 season, he focused his time away from ITV, offering insight and punditry for NBC’s Premier League coverage.

Left-Back: Stuart Pearce (Captain)

22/6/1996 European Football Championships - England v Spain - Stuart Pearce celebrates and shows his relief at scoring during the penalty shootout. Photo: Mark Leech / Offside.

Then: I wonder whether Pearce still loses sleep when thinking about his hand in San Marino’s goal. After all, it was his slip that allowed a computer salesman to score against one of the best goalies in Europe. The Nottingham Forest defender had made his debut for England as a 25-year-old in 1987 and had been a key member of the infamous Italia ’90 squad. ‘Psycho’ – as he came to be known – was renowned for his lung-busting playing style, hard tackle and surprising proficient goalscoring ability.

Now: Until his sacking in February 2015, Pearce was the manager of former club Nottingham Forest in the English Championship. His poor record while at the club meant his position was untenable. Despite this, since retiring from professional football in 2002, Pearce has managed several high-profile teams to relative success. Between 2005 and 2007, Pearce had a controversial period managing Manchester City. He will be perhaps best remembered for his decision to play goalkeeper, David James, upfront in the last few minutes of a crucial game against Middlesbrough. In February 2007, Pearce was appointed as the manager of the England Under-21 side. During his time in charge, he led the young Three Lions to the European final. He was then chosen to manage Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic games. Unfortunately for Pearce, the team underperformed on home turf and he was much maligned for his management style.

Centre-Back: Des Walker

Then: “You’ll never beat Des Walker. You’ll never beat Des Walker”. On his day, Walker was one of the best centre-halves in the English top division. After eight years starring for a talented Nottingham Forest side, Walker got his glamour move to the Italian Serie A with Sven-Goran Eriksson’s high-flying Sampdoria in 1992. However, by the time of the San Marino game, Walker’s Italian adventure was all but over. While at Sampdoria, he was continually played out of position by Sven and, as a result, his form for England suffered. The tie against San Marino would prove to be Walker’s last international appearance.

Now: Walker’s career lives on in the form of his son, Tyler. The 18-year-old is currently making waves at his dad’s former club, Nottingham Forest. In 10 games for the Championship side, Walker has scored two goals. In terms of Walker senior’s career, finishing for England wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In 1993, Walker signed for Sheffield Wednesday – becoming a club legend over a period of eight years. In 2007, he was named alongside Peter Swann as Sheffield Wednesday’s greatest ever centre-back. Walker finished his career back at Forest, retiring at the tender age of 38!

Centre-Back: Gary Pallister

29/3/1995 International Football. England v Uruguay. Enzo Francescoli skips the tackle of Gary Pallister. Photo: Mark Leech / Offside.

Then: Alongside Steve Bruce at the heart of the Manchester United defence, Gary Pallister helped propel the club back to the summit of the English game. The solid, if not spectacular, defender had been at the club since his 1989 move from Middlesbrough. In terms of his international career, Pallister had the rare achievement of representing England before making an appearance in the top flight.

Now: Pallister is now happily retired and is often seen enjoying a pint in the Manchester United hospitality box. As well as working for Darlington as an operating director, Pallister offers his views and opinions to both the BBC and ITV. In terms of his professional career, Pallister was gradually squeezed out at Manchester United and, by 1996, he was back at former club, Middlesbrough. His England career was hindered by the emergence of Arsenal captain, Tony Adams.

Left Midfield: Andy Sinton

Then: Remember Sinton’s career for England? Nah, me neither. However, in the early 90s, Sinton was hot property. In August 1993, the England international made a big-money move to Sheffield Wednesday for a club record fee of £2.75 million. In manager Graham Taylor’s mind, Sinton was a more dependable choice than the supremely talented Chris Waddle. However, like Des Walker, the dismal result in San Marino meant that Sinton would never play for England again! And, boy were the England fans happy about this.

Now: In a poll conducted by the Daily Mail in 2009, Sinton was named one of the worst England players to have ever put on the shirt. Perhaps this assessment was a little unfair. In a career spanning two decades, Sinton – nicknamed the ‘engine’ – always gave his all for the cause. After retiring from the professional game in 2007, Sinton took up a managerial post at Telford United. However, after seeing the club through a 16-match winless run in 2013, Sinton was relieved of his duties.

Right Midfield: Stuart Ripley

Then: What a time to make your debut for England! A seemingly easy task of knocking a few past a bunch of part-timers. Well, it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare for Blackburn Rover’s Stuart Ripley. Like the majority of the England side that day, Ripley became synonymous with Graham Taylor’s disastrous reign and was lambasted in the press. Thank God for the emergence of a certain David Beckham, eh?

Now: Since retiring from the professional game in 2001, Ripley has established himself as a successful solicitor. He is a member of the FA’s Judicial Panel hearing cases related to doping, safeguarding and discrimination. He was part of the panel deliberating over John Terry’s racism case. His son, Connor, plays as a goalkeeper for Middlesbrough in the English Championship. While his international career never really took off, Ripley was part of the Blackburn Rovers side that won the Premier League in the 1994-1995 season.

Central Midfield: Paul Ince

29 May 1993 - World Cup Qualifier - Poland v England - Paul Ince of Englad shields the ball away from Jacek Bak of Poland (4)

Then: Paul Ince was England’s engine room in the early 90s. The Manchester United midfielder had been a key competitor in the England first division since exploding onto the scene in the late 1980s. In 1993, the “guv’nor” – as he was best known on the terraces – became the first black player to captain the English national team. He was one of the few players to come out of the San Marino game with any pride. Ince scored twice – his first and only international goals – in a game marked by sheer embarrassment.

Now: Towards the end of the 2014-2015 season, Ince took a barrage of media abuse after advising his son, Thomas Ince, to boycott an England Under-21 call-up. Now firmly in a media position, Ince has taken on several projects since retiring from the professional game in 2007. He has managed a total of six teams – the most prominent of which being Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League.

Central Midfield: David Platt

Then: With all the money thrown about in today’s market, it seems strange to think of £20 million as a huge sum. But, back in the 90s, this was a serious amount of wonga. England’s experienced attacking midfielder, David Platt, was the man in question. Between 1991 and 1993, Platt moved between three Italian Serie A clubs – each move costing in excess of £5 million. He had been one of England’s key men during the glorious Italia 90 campaign and, coming into the San Marino game, was the most experienced player on the pitch. In the previous game, Platt had been at the centre of a seriously contentious issue. With an hour gone in a crucial tie against the Netherlands, Platt was played through on goal after a great ball from the much-lamented Andy Sinton. With the goal gaping, Platt was viciously hacked down by the Netherlands’ Ronald Koeman. Despite Koeman being the last man, he was spared a dismissal and ended up scoring the winning goal.

Now: Since retiring from professional football in 2001, Platt has taken on several assistant manager posts – including the co-assistant role at Manchester City. In June 2015, Platt was given an opportunity to manage FC Pune City in the Indian Super League (N.B. They currently boast the likes of Didier Zokora, Adrian Mutu and Tuncay). He is regarded as one of the finest England players of his generation – scoring 27 goals in 62 appearances for his national side.

Striker: Les Ferdinand

17/2/1993 World Cup Qualifying. England v San Marino. Les Ferdinand breaks with the ball on his debut. Photo: Mark Leech / Offside

Then: Ferdinand was an up-and-coming star in the English Premier Division. In the 1992-1993 season, Ferdinand had scored an impressive total of 20 goals for an improving and talented QPR side. While he had a lot of competition on the international scene, Ferdinand had started well. In his first appearance for England, Ferdinand scored against – yes, you’ve guessed it – San Marino during a 6-0 victory.

Now: Ferdinand is currently the director of football at his former club, Queens Park Rangers. Since retiring from the professional game in 2006, he has taken several coaching and technical roles at both Tottenham Hotspur and QPR. In terms of his Tottenham playing career, Ferdinand struggled to replicate his previously prolific goalscoring form. In over 118 games for the club, Ferdinand managed only 33 goals. In 2003, Ferdinand left Tottenham and moved to West Ham where, again, he struggled to hit the net on a regular basis. A more successful spell at Leicester followed for the striker, before he finished his career at Watford. He is regarded as one of the finest goalscorers in the Premier League era.

Striker: Ian Wright

Then: In each of the seven seasons that followed the 1990 World Cup, Wright never scored fewer than 23 goals a year for his club. Yet, it was only under Graham Taylor that Wright was given his chance to shine properly on the international scene. Five of Wright’s nine international goals were scored under Taylor’s management. Wright was the one shining light during the game against San Marino. His four goals – albeit allowed by some comical goalkeeping – saw him collect the man of the match award.

Now: Wright’s international exile remains a mystery. Despite boasting one of the best goalscoring records in Premier League history, Wright was continuously overlooked for England duty. Perhaps this was something to do with Wright’s bad-boy reputation. Or perhaps it was just bad luck on his part. Either way, Wright remains as one of the finest strikers in English history. He has just signed back up as a pundit for the BBC after an eight-year absence. He will be on our screens every Saturday night and, if you’re lucky enough to have BT Sport, you’ll see Wright feature heavily as part of the channel’s Premier League coverage.

 
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