It’s good to see Panini’s sticker collection for this year’s Euros is on sale. Feeling nostalgic about such things, we today look back at some of the England Panini stickers issued for European Championship tournaments from 1980 to 2000…
The 1980 European Championship was the first to include group stages during the finals. Being held in Italy, the tournament was too good an opportunity for Panini to miss following the success of recent World Cup and domestic football collections. The finals would also at last represent England’s return to major competitions, after a barren 1970s. Sadly, ‘Europa ’80’ proved disappointing from both a neutral and English perspective, being blighted by the antics of the hooligan fraternity during England’s’ opening game against Belgium.
Taking his place in the sticker collection was England’s newest star, a moustachioed Glenn Hoddle. Having scored in style on his debut the previous November at home to Bulgaria, it seemed he would play a prominent role at the finals. But manager Ron Greeenwood had other ideas, with Hoddle’s 76 minutes of action in Italy coming in what was effectively a dead rubber against Spain. It was to be an unfortunate taste of things to come for Hoddle, whose England career generally did not bring the fulfilment he would have craved given the extent of his talent.
England didn’t qualify for the 1984 tournament, but they were not totally forgotten about. They joined a notable absentee list that included world champions Italy, so Panini afforded a small amount of space in its Euro ’84 collection to some of the ‘excluded nations’. There were to be two England stickers, including this team group.
The English nation largely turned its back on the finals in France, with England being on tour in South America when the tournament began and only one match from the Euros being screened live on British television prior to the final. It meant viewers missed out on properly enjoying an entertaining tournament, which ended in victory for the hosts.
A smile on the face of Bobby Robson could be found in the Panini collection for Euro ’88, but his demeanour would be rather less cheerful once the finals began in West Germany. England failed to score a point on the field, while a dreadful week was capped off it by more deplorable hooliganism. Robson could feel England were unlucky to take nothing from their first two defeats that sealed their early exit, but he then saw the side turn in a pitiful display against the Soviet Union.
The pressure was mounting and, according to BBC radio commentator Mike Ingham’s autobiography, Robson’s mood worsened as he heard the players letting their hair down in the hotel that night. “They just don’t feel defeat like we do. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much these days,” he was quoted as telling his predecessor Ron Greenwood. It’s food for thought for anyone who likes to proclaim the players from that era cared much more about representing England than the current crop. But two years later Robson saw his team give everything at the World Cup in Italy, with their prolonged run owing much to a player who would sadly be absent from the next European Championship…
Paul Gascoigne and Italia ’90 are synonymous with each other. Sadly the same cannot be said for Euro ’92. Gazza had played in just one of England’s opening four qualifiers before sustaining a dreadful injury in the 1991 FA Cup final, that would leave him on the sidelines for the remainder of the qualifying campaign and beyond. It was always going to be a long shot, but there was still some hope when England clinched qualification in November 1991 that Gascoigne could be back in time for the finals.
“We’re all hoping that he gets fit soon enough to show his fitness for Sweden,” said Gary Lineker after qualification was achieved. Panini evidently felt the same way, including Gascoigne in its Euro ’92 collection when it went on sale in the spring. But by then it was clear Gazza wasn’t going to make it. He was one of several England players to miss the tournament through injury, with the side failing to win a game in their absence as the tide started to turn against manager Graham Taylor.
The 1990s saw Panini well and truly knocked off its perch in the UK. It would lose out on the sticker rights to the newly-formed Premier League to breakaway rival Merlin, with Panini feeling the full effects of a takeover by Robert Maxwell and his subsequent death. It would at least continue to produce stickers for each major tournament, but for Euro ’96 it would be directly competing with Merlin’s collection for the same competition.
Alan Shearer was among the England players afforded a Panini sticker, at a time when he was enduring a barren run of form for his country. But he would be prolific in the tournament, finishing top scorer as England came so close to glory on home soil.
Panini’s footballing woes continued as the Millennium dawned, as it no longer held an England licence – an issue that would cause difficulties for some time. The impact of this was in evidence in the Euro 2000 collection, with no England player pictured wearing the official team strip and there being no sign anywhere of the Three Lions logo.
The situation was summed up by the team group photo, which contained just headshots of 11 players. It would set the tone for a tournament in which England did not play as a cohesive unit and were to once more be home before the knockout rounds began, the only positive being a first tournament victory over Germany since 1966.
All images used in this article are taken from Panini collections and are being shared for nostalgic purposes.
Blogging about the history of the England national football team, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.