Gareth Southgate keen to banish talk of Euro 96 ahead of England’s bid for glory

England manager Gareth Southgate says his side should not have the shadow of Euro 96 hanging over their heads this summer.

The Three Lions are gearing up for their European Championship campaign, which will predominantly be played on home soil, 25 years since the memorable tournament that caught the nation’s imagination.

Amid a backdrop of Baddiel and Skinner and euphoric patriotism, Southgate was part of the England squad that made it to the semi-final before a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat to Germany at Wembley.

With Southgate assembling a young and exciting squad, expectations are high that England can finally achieve glory this summer.

Southgate missed the vital penalty for England in the Euro 96 semi-final shootout
Southgate missed the vital penalty for England in the Euro 96 semi-final shootout (PA Archive)

The boss wants to achieve history, but says the memory of 1996 is not a factor.

“It’s an opportunity. We can be the first. We’ve never got to a European Championship final,” he said. “We’ve only been to one semi-final.

“These players don’t need to worry about 96. Most of them weren’t born. God, that’s depressing.

“We can use some little things that happened along that way, but this is their moment, this is their opportunity.

“For some it’s early in their careers, for some it’s got to happen soon. They have got to approach it with that freshness and excitement.

“We have a great opportunity to bring happiness and enjoyment to people. That’s one of the beauties of being involved with the national team and we’re desperate to try to do that.”

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England are currently the favourites to win Euro 2020 with some bookmakers, not that Southgate is paying too much notice.

The 50-year-old does concede, however, that his side are contenders and they are a match for any of the other big guns on their day.

“We’re one of a number of teams who, I think, are in the frame,” he admitted. “Have we peaked as a team? I don’t think we have.

“But can we say we’re ahead of Portugal, who’ve won a Nations League and a Euros. Or France, who are world champions? Or Belgium, who have been ranked number one for four years and only lost two or three games?

England have an exciting squad going into this summer's European Championship
England have an exciting squad going into this summer’s European Championship (Florian Abazaj/PA)

“We can’t be arrogant and say we’re ahead of those teams.

“We’re in that group – like Italy, Spain and Germany who are improving quickly – so it’s an incredibly strong field.

“We are capable, I think, of beating any team on a given day.

“What we’ve got to do is put those games back-to-back to be able to succeed in this tournament. That’s the challenge for us.”