Club v Country : Why Choose ?

CLUB v COUNTRY: Why choose?

By Nick Lee.

Euro 96 will forever go down as one of the greatest times in English sporting history........ Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds had captured the mood of the nation with 'Three Lions'....

........lad culture was on the rise, and County were starting to look quite good under Dave Jones. Hell, even the Gallagher brothers remained mildly tolerable.

It'd be unfair to say it was Euro 96 that got me into football. My dad had taken me to Edgeley Park for the first time early in 95.

 Big Kevin Francis scored the winner against Bournemouth and I was hooked. I went to every home game the following season, and got to see us narrowly lose to top flight Everton after three hours of fantastic football. 

Looking back on it now, I think watching County in the 1995/96 season was the perfect preparation for the summer tournament. My uncle took me to Wembley to watch England's final warm up game with Hungary, and I remember thinking that this football lark was right up my street.
England team v Hungary.

I've always felt there was something magical about international football, especially in a tournament summer. Of course, I didn't know back then what a letdown England could be, so imagine the look on the face of this 8-year-old as Terry Venables' side stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Switzerland. 

This meant we had to get a win against the Auld Enemy Scotland, and follow it up by defeating a Holland side in disarray, having sent home world class midfielder Edgar Davids. Of course we won them both, with Gazza's goal the highlight of the Scotland game, and the 4-1 win over the Dutch is widely regarded as one of England's greatest ever performances.

Gazza milks it v Scotland !

After riding their luck against Spain in the quarters, a penalty shootout win saw the team head to a semi-final against old rivals Germany. The rest, of course, is history, as England's penalty hoodoo claimed another victim in Gareth Southgate.

You'd think this would've left me deflated, but I simply couldn't wait for the 1996/97 season to start. West Ham signed a couple of European mercenaries in Paulo Futre and Florin Răducioiu. County went off on tour to Portugal and came back with Luis Cavaco, Nelson DaCosta and Kiko Charana. I honestly thought we were part of the big league now.

The great Louis Cavaco at Flynny's big one!

Such feelings were borne out that season, as County played an astonishing 67 games on the way to promotion from the then Second Division. A run to the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup saw County rise to greater prominence, with the tabloid press loving the exploits of Dave Jones' side as they dumped out top flight sides Blackburn, West Ham and Southampton.


 For most County fans, this was dreamland. I just didn't think there was anything different. As far as I was concerned this was the norm.
Now, twenty years on, I still feel enormous gratitude towards my father for taking me to those early games, and giving me the chance to see County's finest season. It astounds me that we have such a hardcore section of loyal fans, unwavering despite the fact they've seen nothing the like of what I witnessed in the 1990s.
Of course, history shows us that seasons ending in 6/7 tend to be good for County. 1936/37 saw the Third Division North title, 1966/67 the Third Division, and everyone knows what happened thirty years later.

 With some much-needed stability behind the scenes, and a management team we can put our faith in, there's no reason why this season can't be every bit as successful as the others I've mentioned.

Nick Lee


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