EURO 96 (or how I fell out of love with the onion bag)

While Derek and Gary are busy working on the ‘Got, Not Got’ sequel Steve Mitchell is doing a series for our blog…

When Eric Cantona broke Liverpudlian hearts with his last gasp extra –time winner in the 1996 FA Cup Final, little did we know that it would be the last time we would see what for me will always be synonymous with the old Wembley Stadium – the iconic goals and netting. Those beautiful arched works of art that every football mad schoolboy worth his salt dreamt of scoring into.

Just a month later when England kicked off their European Championship campaign against Switzerland, I looked on in disbelief as the iconic old nets at the great stadium had been replaced by the standard UEFA required onion bag that is now seen at most football grounds across the British Isles. But it was not only Wembley of course, all the tournament venues had been infected, Old Trafford, Anfield, Villa Park and Hillsborough had all succumbed to the powers that be at the top-table of European Football, the final piece of stadium individuality in this country had been lost.

Subbuteo nets brown

Cast your minds back 30 years or so when you could tell a football ground just by looking at a photograph of its goal nets. Upton Park and Loftus Road, two grounds that were so compact you could almost touch the goal posts from where you stood and whose nets were so shallow you could almost kick the ball back out them if the referee wasn’t concentrating. Anfield, with its trademark red netting as another hapless visiting goalkeeper picked the ball out of the back of it.

With the sanitisation of all UK stadia and the goal furniture within them, no longer would we have incidents like Clive Allen’s famous strike at Highfield Road in 1980 that left manger Terry Venables feeling “disgusted” when the ball was hit so hard it cannoned into the net, hit the back stanchion and came out and the goal was not given (even to this day John Motson still maintains it didn’t go in). No more Question of Sport “what happened next “clips such as Trevor Brooking’s stylish effort for England in Hungary in 1981 that was so accurate the ball lodged itself within the frame of the goal.

Of course this UEFA disease spread all over Europe as goals in Spain, Italy and France became cloned. No longer would the goalkeeper have to defend a goal so deep that he would have to walk 2 miles to retrieve a ball if it flew past him. And of course, the most famous football game ever made did not escape as Subbuteo nets were brought up to modern day specification. When I was a kid I had at least four different sorts of goals depending on whether I was playing at home or abroad. I still remember to this day the sheer excitement I got on Christmas Day in 1982 when I opened up my brand spanking new World Cup edition of the iconic game to find goals in there with different, yes different coloured netting one red one blue. Would life ever be the same again? Sadly yes, one day it would.

Coventry v Palace – The goal that never was…

Trevor Brooking’s Stanchion Sticker…

If you can remember when goals were properly shaped then you should probably buy the retro-footy-grumble-fest ‘Got, Not Got’… runner-up in last year’s Footy Book of the Year. Available from branches of WH Smith and Waterstones or online here


About thefoxfanzine

Editor of The FOX Fanzine - covering Leicester City for 23 years... it seems longer.
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1 Response to EURO 96 (or how I fell out of love with the onion bag)

  1. scherben says:

    Another ‘Stanchion Sticker’ courtesy of Gordon Strachan:

    Agree fully with this post; the classic Wembley nets (along with Hampdens ‘square’ posts) are sadly missed.

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