Anybody Who Takes A World Cup Penalty Is One Of Bravest People On The Pitch

- Jul 05, 2018 -

I have to say I was nervous when Eric Dier stepped up to take England’s fifth penalty as he hadn’t had the best game until then after coming on as a substitute against Colombia. But when he scored and Englandwere through to the quarter-finals that way I celebrated, for sure.

Anybody who takes a penalty is one of the bravest people on the pitch. When our World Cup semi-final went to penalties against West Germany in 1990 the first thing I was thinking was: ‘I hope I don’t have to take one.’ I was concerned with crossing the halfway line, never mind taking penalties, at that time.

There was no pre-plan of who would take the kicks for us from Sir Bobby Robson. You knew the ones who definitely would – Gary Lineker was always going to be our banker – and after that I think it was a case of who wanted to take one. It got down to there being one place left and while Chris Waddle didn’t really want to take it he put his hand up.

Unlike the game today – and as we saw with Gareth Southgate’s England – there hadn’t been anything before the game, nothing at half-time, about what would occur if it was to go to penalties. I don’t think anyone was thinking that. We were the first England team to be involved in a shootout.

Now everyone talks about it, but you talked then about winning a game in 90 minutes or extra time. You didn’t believe penalties were going to happen. More than anything I was hoping it wasn’t going to go beyond the first five as it would’ve been between me and Peter Shilton over who was going to take the last one.

Now homework is done all the time regarding penalties – which way the goalkeeper’s going to go, that kind of thing. But in football there’s always a learning period – 1990 was a learning period. England were in a penalty shootout for the first time and didn’t win, so it then became a very negative discussion about how the side hadn’t been prepared.

Today everyone’s an expert, saying you should be practising penalties – social media means there are those who are able to voice, in their multi-millions, that they have a better idea than people who are elite professionals.

My view is: how can you practise taking a penalty when you’re going up to try to get your team in to a final or to save your team? How can you replicate that on the training field? You can only practise where you’re going to put the ball but you cannot give that person anything else to make him feel what it’s like to be in that situation, as Dier was. It’s absolutely impossible.

People out there have to understand it’s not as easy as it seems. That’s why you start with your banker, like Harry Kane did against Colombia, and we did with Gary Lineker – to make sure you score. We could have had Gary Lineker at the end, for glory, but is the shootout going to get to the end? You saw with Chelsea and John Terry [in the 2008 Champions League final] – he wanted to be at the end, he was looking for glory, and slips over. Could he have been one of the better takers and gone earlier? Who knows: it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.

I think a lot about Chris Waddle’s miss and I don’t see a problem because Chris was immense in that tournament, he never put a foot wrong. So he walks up and I’m thinking to myself: ‘This is not a problem.’ The other side was: ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be coming up soon.’ Seriously, I believed Chris was going to score and the competition would move on, but it never materialised

The feeling when you’re knocked out on penalties? There’s a picture of me with my hands over my face. I was just drained. But it was a position I never thought I’d ever be in. So at that given moment I don’t think I wanted to break down in tears.

It was a moment that seemed unrealistic to actually experience in my career: 15 or 20 minutes away from potentially playing in the World Cup final. I was playing in a World Cup semi-final, which was as big as it came at that time. It is only as time has gone on that I’ve realised the magnitude of that match.


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