Andy Townsend was waiting in the Wembley players’ lounge waiting for his friend to join him. He wasn’t in fact given an invitation but was watching the game on television and was able to weave across the vast system of tunnels and corridors locate his way to the entrance in order to show his love to Andy Townsend, his old Aston Villa team-mate who had been through one of the most painful experiences that a footballer could have, Gareth Southgate penalty miss. Then, successfully inside, Townsend waited with Alison the wife of Gareth Southgate. They didn’t really know what they should tell one another or what they’d say to the distraught England centre-back after he came from the exit.
Then, suddenly the man appeared, and was heading towards them. And Townsend was going to say, “Don’t worry – better than you missed them” at the time that Liam Gallagher appeared, as like he appeared out of thin air. Evidently, being among the most well-known rock stars in the world and this was 1996 when Oasis at the peak of their popularity can open doors to unique places. Here was the singer’s leader speaking to a player who, just a few hours ago, had been the country’s most famous player after not converting the penalty that allowed Germany to defeat England during the semifinals of the home European Championship.
There was never a time when no one lost words. Gallagher stated, “Don’t f**king worry about it because you’d have the bollocks to take it up as well as the other f**kers they didn’t want you to know.”It was a perfect remark by a frontman who’s band’s song Don’t Look Back in Anger had been averaging 4 weeks at No. 1 just three months before. At that point, Townsend was able to decide what he wanted to tell the world. “Actually in as many words that’s what I’m going to tell you,” he said. “What you said was spot perfect.”
Southgate believed he was personally accountable for the end of the good vibe the nation was riding through the hot summer in the year 1996. When he returned to his dressing room – an area that was a temporary cloak of peace and security from the public fury to follow Southgate Southgate felt at first, an emotion that would be with him for the rest of his life the feeling that he’d disappointed everyone. The team-mates, himself and his nation.
Everyone had their own opinion. Even his mother, Barbara, who said “Why didn’t you just scream it out?” when he phoned her later. On the team bus which carried all the team members on their way from Wembley returning to Burnham Beeches Hotel, in Buckinghamshire, Southgate sat despondent. The following evening, he shared meals along with Stuart Pearce and the left-back who was infamously omitted the final penalty of the tournament against Germany in the same round of Italia 1990. He also informed him of what the coming few months would be like as well as advice Southgate could find valuable.
He always assumed that all eyes were on him when he walked down the street. He didn’t intend to draw attention to anyone else’s eyes. It was a reasonable assumption, considering that the fact that people would pop their heads out of the van’s windows and yell at him.
In the past, prior to the advent of social media and trolling was commonplace, people made write letters to Southgate. Southgate received a plethora of letters. Some were filled of which contained harsh comments, but a lot with positive and thanks.
This was the beginning of the healing process. They were the ones who spoke about how much they had enjoyed England’s performance during the tournament, and how well they did they had done, and those who advised the player not to blame himself for his mistakes.
“Then there were the letters from extremely brave people that made me feel very emotional,” he writes. “Some had fatal illnesses, or committed to taking care of family members who depended on them. However, they had decided to thank me for my part in the thrilling game for England. It was a great way to put everything in the context of. It was a time when I was worried about missing a penalty even as others faced important issues to address throughout their life.”
There was even an prisoner who claimed that he was the one to blame Southgate for the prison sentence he was forced to serve. The man had been detained because of rioting, after England were evicted. “I’m ready to take responsibility for a variety of things, but not this,” Southgate told the Happy Place podcast.