Euro Chumps: Ron Atkinson

Given his chequered commentary career, you have to wonder how Ron Atkinson became a successful football manager and conveyed his messages to his players.

From his lollipops to the two Ms (movement and positioning), Big Ron spent many years of the European Championship frankly ruining ITV’s coverage of the tournament with his inane rambling. This site does a better job of summarising than I do.

But Atkinson really excelled himself in Euro 88 and seem to single out Marco Van Basten for his vitriol. Describing the Dutch striker as having ‘fallen down with exhaustion’ as he won a penalty against West Germany in the semi-finals, Atkinson went one better in the Final.

After witnessing perhaps the greatest goal ever scored, Atkinson’s could only offer ‘it’s as we’ve said all along, the Russians can’t defend cross balls’ as a summary. Because Lord knows, such luminaries as Big Ron’s former charges like Kevin Pressman and Carlton Palmer would have gobbled up a moment of absolute genius for breakfast. Continue reading

Euro Champs: Marco Van Basten

In my eyes there has never been a better out-and-out striker in my lifetime than Marco Van Basten and it is his performances at Euro 88 that went a long way to cementing that opinion in my mind.

Despite the fact that England got taught a football lesson by the Dutch in the group stages, the football fan inside you could not help but marvel as Van Basten ruthlessly dissected the English defence and plundered a hat-trick of the highest quality.

Van Basten wasn’t finished there; scoring a dramatic last-minute winner against rivals West Germany in the semi-finals, after winning a penalty for the Oranje earlier in the game.

That set up a final tie against a USSR side who had beaten Holland earlier in the tournament. It was going to take something special to topple Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s men and Van Basten certainly came up with a goal that to this day remains arguably the greatest of all-time.

Ruud Gullit’s header had given the Dutch a first half lead but they knew from their earlier encounter with the Soviets that more than one goal would be needed to make certain of the victory.

Enter Van Basten, who had drifted to the far right-hand side of the box as Arnold Muhren advanced down the left. The striker peeled into space as Muhren launched an ambitious cross-field ball to his team-mate. I still shake my head at disbelief in what happened next. From an overly acute angle, Van Basten caught the ball full on the volley and sent it crashing back across Rinat Dasayev and into the far corner.

It was a stunningly stupendous goal, fit to win any football match and became known in playgrounds across the world as ‘doing a Van Basten’ and for that alone, Marco Van Basten, the archetypal predator, deserves his place in the Euro Champs list.

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Euro Champs: Bryan Robson

It was one of those rare occasions in English international football history – Bryan Robson managed to keep both his shoulders in their sockets for the duration of a competitive fixture.

Truth be told, Captain Marvel was the only Englishman to come out of this 3-1 spanking by a Marco Van Basten-inspired Dutch with any credibility whatsoever, putting in a spirited performance as he tried to drag his team-mates to a modicum of respectability against a far superior opponent.

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