THE Scot who spent four rollercoaster years as the England assistant manager has given a unique insight into the intense pressure which Gareth Southgate and his players have been under to perform at Euro 2024 ahead of their semi-final with the Netherlands tonight.  

Harry Kane and his compatriots will make it through to the final of the competition for the second time in three years if they overcome Ronald Koemann’s men in their last four encounter in the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund this evening.

Yet, they have still been savaged by the media in their homeland and lambasted by their supporters for the standard of football they have produced in Germany during the past three weeks.

England were held to draws by Denmark and Slovenia in Group C, required an injury-time strike from Jude Bellingham and an extra-time header from Kane to beat Slovakia in the last 16 and needed a late Bukayo Saka goal to take Switzerland to penalties in their quarter-final on Saturday evening.

The pre-tournament favourites’ often unconvincing displays have fallen some way short of what was widely expected of them before Euro 2024 got underway last month and pundits and fans have not been slow to voice their displeasure. 

John Gorman, the former Celtic player from Winchburgh in West Lothian who was assistant to his close friend and former Tottenham Hotspur team mate Glenn Hoddle during the 1990s, has sympathised with their plight. 

(Image: PA) Gorman, a hugely respected coach who also worked at Swindon Town, West Bromwich Albion, Wycombe Wanderers, Gillingham, Northampton Town, Spurs, Southampton and Ipswich Town during a lengthy career down south, experienced first hand just how challenging carrying the hopes of the football-obsessed nation can be.

The 74-year-old feels that not being adversely affected by the demands which the English press and public put on them is absolutely crucial to their chances of success at a finals.

Read more: 

“A lot of the people have been having a go at Gareth and his players at Euro 2024 even though they have topped their group and made it through to the semi-finals,” he said. “It is exactly what it was like when I was there. England fans expect their team to beat everybody.

“Dealing with the criticism which comes your way and the scrutiny you are under are perhaps the biggest things for the England manager and players to deal with. They are sometimes the most difficult things to deal with.

“When they do win, there is nothing but praise. But even then stories still come out about things which were wrong with how they played and questioning the harmony in the squad. It can be difficult playing for a major nation at a big tournament.”

Gorman added: “The media scrutiny when I was involved with England was horrendous. Negative stories used to appear all the time. I always used to think, ‘What has that got to do with anything? It’s not helping England’s cause’.

“Glenn had a meeting with the media about it before we went to France ’98. All of the top press guys, the Fleet Street big hitters from the old days, were there. I was there as well and to a man they all said, ‘We’ll try to back you up’.

“But I can remember the day before England played their first World Cup game against Tunisia there was a big story about the personal life of one of our players in the News of the World. The day before the game! As if you needed that!

“I would say things to the press and would then read the story and think, ‘I never said that!’ Things got taken out of context. But when Scotland went out at France ’98 I suggested the Scotland fans should start supporting England because a Scot was still involved with them at the World Cup.

“Well, the Scottish press absolutely slaughtered me for that! There were all these stories saying, ‘Who does he think he is?’ I can look back and laugh about it all now.”

(Image: Getty) England losing to their old adversaries Argentina on penalties in their last 16 match at France ’98 after David Beckham had been red carded for kicking out at Diego Simeone was no laughing matter for Hoddle and Gorman.

But the man who was a member of the fabled Quality Street Gang at Celtic in the 1960s and who played his only game for the Parkhead club on the day that Kenny Dalglish made his debut in a League Cup tie against Hamilton in 1968, felt they simply lacked the good fortune you need at a major tournament.

Read more:

“The biggest pressure game I was involved in was probably the game against Argentina at France ’98,” he said. “It went down to penalties and we lost. But England were a shade unlucky because a few of the players who would have taken penalties were not on. David Beckham would have taken one and he had been sent off.

“In the quarter-final against Switzerland at the weekend, Harry Kane was taken off before the shoot-out. But Ivan Toney came on and he is great at taking penalties. That is where the luck came in. The two young boys, Cole Palmer and Bukayo Saka, also converted their penalties well.

“In the Euro 2020 final, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka got heavily criticised after they missed their penalties. But look back at what great players have done in the great games of the past. Roberto Baggio skied a penalty over the bar when Italy lost the World Cup final to Brazil at USA ’94.

“People always say players should practice more or whatever. But I think a lot of it just comes down to what happens on the day, the goalkeeper choosing the right way to dive and making a great save or whatever. What is meant to be is meant to be.” 

Despite his disappointment at the painful exit from France ’98 and bemusement at the stick he got in Scotland for working with England, Gorman looks back on his time with the Auld Enemy with great fondness and admits he will not be bothered if they lift the Henri Delaunay trophy on Sunday. 

(Image: SNS) “It was magnificent,” he said. “The good thing about it all, and this is really quite strange, was that I was quite well received. Even by the English press. They were very good with me. I think they knew I would always speak the truth with them and was doing a good job behind the scenes. They saw the training.

“It was also a pleasure to work with all of the great players. They were all good lads and they weren’t bothered that I was Scottish. They worked under Fergie (Sir Alex Ferguson) at Manchester United or foreign managers at their clubs. It is pretty commonplace for players to have overseas managers in the modern game.

“Terry Butcher, who was a real England stalwart in his playing days and was famous for playing on with his bandaged head covered in blood, was Scotland assistant when George Burley was manager and nobody bothered about that.

“I always found it funny when people moaned about a Scotsman joining the England squad. It was simply a case of Glenn asking me. He and I were very close and he felt I was the right man for the job for him. It was quite an honour really.

“I just love football. If England win Euro 2024 I will be pleased for them. At the same time, if Spain win I will be pleased for them too. I just love good football. Whoever wins wins.”