Gareth Southgate recalls boyhood trip to Wembley and coming away with a special prize

Tuesday 05 May 2020
Gareth Southgate's first trip to Wembley came in September 1985, just over ten years before his England debut at the stadium

Gareth Southgate has revealed that he kept a special bottle of champagne safe for over ten years, after landing it as a prize on a boyhood trip to Wembley.

The Three Lions boss told the story after joining four fans for a lockdown England quiz last week, before chatting with them afterwards.

And it all stems from when a young Southgate visited the old Wembley for the first time, to watch England play Romania in a World Cup Qualifier which ended in a 1-1 draw in September 1985.

"I went to Wembley a few times,” he explained.

“I remember the first Wembley game I went to, I went with my dad, who was invited by work.

“There was a pre-game competition, with John Hollins, who was hosting the area where we were sitting and it was for the first goalscorer and naming the time of the first goal.

“I won it, it was Glenn Hoddle, and they gave us a bottle of champagne but I was only about 14 at the time so I swore that I'd keep it until I played at Wembley.

"Of course, I didn't play at Wembley until I was 25, so I had this bottle of champagne in the house for about ten years.”

And what of the special Wembley vintage? How did it taste following Southgate's England debut against Portugal a decade later in December 1995?

“Actually, it just about held, but I wouldn’t recommend that as a tactic with champagne!”

 

After that first trip to the national stadium, Southgate continued his support for the Three Lions and would often make the journey from his home in Sussex to Wembley.

"I'd go up with my mates on the Tube,” he added.

“I lived in Crawley, so we'd get the train up to watch some of England games and stand behind the goal at the old Wembley at the tunnel end.

"I have to say it wasn't a brilliant view and not great conditions, with a lot of beer everywhere as anyone who stood behind that goal would know, it wasn't so pleasant.”

Now, it’s a different story for the current generation of fans making their own Wembley memories with Southgate keen to reward them with success on the pitch when the game returns.

"What struck me, thinking back to even when I made my debut for England, the crowd was quite low, maybe 28 or 30 thousand,” he added.

“So now, the crowds that we're getting and the support for the team is brilliant so it really resonates with me.

"We wanted to build that feeling and we've had incredible support on the road for as long as I can remember.

"But it's lovely that Wembley is somewhere the fans are starting to enjoy watching the team again and obviously we just want to keep winning to try to bring a trophy back that everyone's been waiting for so long.”

Watch the full lockdown quiz in our video above, which appeared on the official England YouTube channel.

By Nicholas Veevers