A Tribute to Italia 90: For Bully and Gazza, fond memories remain of that summer in Italy

Bring five ex-footballers together to discuss their part in a major tournament and you get a touch of the beautiful game.

Host Johnny Phillips, Dave Beasant, Peter Shilton, Paul Parker, Paul Gascoigne and Steve Bull had a fun evening talking about Italia 90. Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss
Host Johnny Phillips, Dave Beasant, Peter Shilton, Paul Parker, Paul Gascoigne and Steve Bull had a fun evening talking about Italia 90. Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss

It’s been more than 30 years since Gazza wept on the pitch during the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, but the memories are still strong for those who took part and those who saw it happen.

'A Tribute to Italia 90' brought together five members of the England squad from that tournament to tell stories and recount that memorable time in 1990 which kept the nation on the edge of their seat in front of a huge audience at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre.

Steve Bull helped to organise the event and had the full audience support. Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss

Wolves legend Steve Bull, whose foundation had organised the event alongside the Grand Theatre, was joined by Dave Beasant, Peter Shilton, Paul Parker and Paul Gascoigne, with Sky Sports presenter Johnny Phillips attempting to keep the group in order.

Each player spoke very fondly of their time in Italy, with Paul Gascoigne speaking about how much he cherishes that experience and Steve Bull saying he still felt shocked to have been picked from a second division club.

Paul Parker, Paul Gascoigne and Steve Bull share a joke during the show Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss

Every player provoked a laugh, from Dave Beasant describing how he arrived in Sardinia as a replacement for David Seaman to find Neil Webb drinking a “coffee”, which turned out to be brandy, to Peter Shilton joking about the drinking culture in the squad, saying he couldn’t believe how they’d got as far as they had.

Paul Parker was humble about his involvement, talking about being a QPR player and getting his opportunity and describing his cross to Gary Lineker in the semi-final as a “percentage cross”, while Bully joked about needing an interpreter when he joined the squad because of his Black Country accent.

Paul Gascoigne was in great form during the show. Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss

The evening, however, belonged to Paul Gascoigne, with Gazza telling funny stories about playing tennis in the middle of the night before the semi-final against West Germany and drinking three pints of Guinness with Jack Charlton before realising he was a substitute in the game between England and Ireland.

Using notes to help him, Gascoigne was funny and honest, swearing like a trooper, but looking and sounding in a much better place then he had been for a long time and frequently leaving the room, and himself, in hysterical laughter.

Host Johnny Phillips, Dave Beasant, Peter Shilton, Paul Parker, Paul Gascoigne and Steve Bull had a fun evening talking about Italia 90. Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss

He even managed to wreak havoc at the start of the second half of the show, coming out wearing a Grand Theatre high-vis jacket and speaking into a walkie-talkie.

The thing that became apparent when listening to all five men was how much of a bond they still had and what that tournament had meant to them, with everyone speaking fondly of England manager Bobby Robson and how he brought the squad together.

The stage at the Grand Theatre welcomed five greats from the England Italia 90 squad. Photo: Grand Theatre

Highlights of each game were viewed and spoken about, with each player involved speaking about their thoughts at the time, from a difficult draw with Ireland to a combative one with the Dutch and the narrow win over Egypt which put England through as group winners.

The knock-out games were given the same treatment, with joking jibes made at David Platt for having a huge forehead and Paul Gascoigne talking about how the quarter-final nearly became a nightmare for him after giving a penalty away.

The event was watched by a large audience at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Photo: Jonathan Hipkiss

It is the semi-final against West Germany that got the biggest response, from Andreas Brehme’s fortunate goal for the Germans, to Gary Lineker’s equaliser and Chris Waddle hitting the post, with the moment where Paul Gascoigne gets his second booking of the tournament still striking a nerve 31 years later.

England’s defeat in the penalty shootout prevented that team winning the tournament, with everyone present on the stage saying they believed they would have won the final against Argentina.

An evening with laughs, great stories, moments of true emotion and a host of memories for all those involved, the evening also raised funds for the Steve Bull Foundation and the Grand Theatre.

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