‘Gazza’ was one of the Three Lions’ best players, but also one of its most notorious party animals – as he acknowledged at Wembley
The summer of 1996 was billed as a time when football would ‘come home’ as England hosted Euro 96 and attempted to get their hands on their first major trophy since the World Cup 30 years earlier.
Led by Terry Venables, a Three Lions team featuring stars such as Steve McManaman, Alan Shearer and Paul Ince were expected to mount a challenge for glory, particularly on home soil.
It helped that they had the prodigious talent of Paul Gascoigne in their ranks too and the mercurial midfielder demonstrated the extent of his quality in the second game with a sensational strike against Scotland.
Shearer put England ahead against their rivals and then Gascoigne produced a moment of magic when he nonchalantly flicked the ball over Colin Hendry before smashing beyond Andy Goram.
Interestingly, the celebration which followed the goal is arguably as famous, with ‘Gazza’ and a number of England players jokingly reproducing a moment that had overshadowed their tournament preparations.
It became known as ‘The Dentist’s Chair’, but what was it all about exactly? Goal takes a look back at the infamous European Championship celebration.
What was Gazza’s ‘Dentist’s Chair’ celebration?
After scoring England’s second goal against Scotland at Wembley, Gascoigne wheeled away in jubilation, then lay on the ground with his head up, arms out to the side and his mouth open wide.
Shearer, McManaman and Jamie Redknapp were not far behind, and they proceeded to squirt water forcefully into Gascoigne’s mouth. So ‘The Dentist’s Chair’ celebration was born.
The celebration is a reference to a drink-soaked night which occurred on England’s pre-Euro 96 tour of east Asia, where ‘Gazza’ and other players were said to have been tied to a chair and plied with alcohol.
“There were about nine of us who did the Dentist’s Chair in Hong Kong, but obviously, being the person I am, I’m the one who got hammered for it,” Gascoigne later told Pitch TV.
“For some reason, in the second game against Scotland, I just said, ‘right guys, whoever scores does the Dentist’s Chair’ and fortunately for me, it was me.
“The lads were clued in and it was good. It’s just a shame it was lucozade in that bottle and not gin… I’m only joking!”
It was the era before smartphones and the escapades of the England stars might not have been known until photographs emerged days later showing the players in their Dionysian splendour.
Gascoigne, McManaman, Teddy Sheringham and others were shown in the bowels of a booze house with their shirts ripped and the drink flowing. It was not a good look.
The images of England’s star players indulging themselves thus on the eve of the first major international tournament to be held in the country since 1966 prompted outrage.
Gascoigne and his cohorts were subsequently pilloried in the British media, with the Sun famously running the headline: ‘Disgracefool’.
So, when he scored a world-class goal to clinch victory over one of England’s oldest enemies, ‘Gazza’ responded with an ironic retort directed at his detractors.
Interestingly, it wasn’t only the players who were involved in the merrymaking either as Venables’ assistant coach, Bryan Robson, was present on the night of The Dentist’s Chair.
As Ian Walker, who was a substitute goalkeeper for England at Euro 96, recalled, Robson was enlisted by Venables to keep an eye on the players on their night out.
Writing in That’s magazine in 2014, Walker explained: “I don’t know what it was, but Bryan Robson was standing there with a pint, and he was wearing one of those shirts with a round collar, and someone grabbed it and ripped it. All he had left was the little round collar: the rest of it had gone. And he just carried on drinking like nothing had happened!
“He was supposed to be looking after us, so from then on it went a bit mad. And then someone found a dentist chair in another room. So of course – bang! – straight away we’re on it.
“I think Gazza went on first, then I had a go, then Teddy Sheringham. Then it all went off, just bedlam.”
Despite the opprobrium in the sports pages at the time, the England players still maintain that their late-night drinking sessions were actually a useful experiment in team-building.
“I was first in the chair because it looked like a laugh,” Gascoigne said in an interview with Four Four Two magazine. “Then a few of the other lads did it. It was good for team spirit.”
Others, such as Ince, Walker and Co. agree, though it is difficult to imagine such antics taking place in the game nowadays, where a player’s every movement is scrutinised.
Considering the goal and the way England performed at the beginning of the tournament in particular though – beating Scotland and the Netherlands in the group, then overcoming Spain – ‘Gazza’ may have a point.
The Three Lions ultimately lost out to Germany in the semi-final on penalties, with Andreas Moller extinguishing their hopes of ending ’30 years of hurt’, but the memories of ‘Gazza’ and the Dentist’s Chair endure.