When Vinnie Jones started crunching San Marino players left, right and centre, it was clear the friendly was taking a sinister turn.
Harry Redknapp’s rag-tag group of retired football stars, ravaged by injuries, had been forced to bring in the the Hollywood star and former ‘Crazy Gang’ hard nut to bring some much needed steel to the England line-up in the latest episode of ITV’s Harry’s Heroes: Euro Having A Laugh.
The Heroes touched down in San Marino last night on a quest to find the man who’d ruined the Three Lions’ 1994 USA World Cup qualification and, in particular, given England goalkeeper David Seaman nearly three decades worth of embarrassment.
It took the man in question, the immediately loveable Davide Gualtieri, now working in a technology shop, just 8.3 seconds to score past Seaman in a World Cup qualifier in 1993 and although the footballing minnows went on to lose 7-1, with England needing seven clear goals to qualify, any American dreams they had were abruptly dashed.
Fast forward to 2020 and Redknapp’s geriatric warriors were on a personal revenge mission to bring Gualtieri to justice, save Seaman from any more sleepless nights and restore national pride - in a friendly.
It started well enough, Seaman lasted eight seconds without conceding and was immediately subbed off, and thanks to some first-half heroics from Lee Hendrie, England took a 3-0 lead going into the break.
“We just need four more,” says Redknapp, giddy at the prospect of washing away that 30 year-old stain from English footballing memory.
After adding another two goals to make it 5-0, disaster struck deep into the second half, with England’s former legends beginning to tire and with no replacements on the bench, San Marino began to get a foothold and within minutes had pulled three goals back.
With 15 minutes to go tempers were starting to flare among the English ranks, Lee Hendrie, the star man for most of the game, had started to offer out any San Marino player who dared cross him.
England would need grit and determination just to hold on, never mind win, Redknapp remarked. Well, who needs either of those when you’ve got Vinnie Jones?
SNAP goes one San Marino postman, SNAP goes the local warehouse worker - you can’t score goals if you can’t walk, seemed to be the Vinne Jones mantra on the night. The Battle Of Gualtieri was in full-swing.
By some miracle, the Three Lions held out for the win despite some late scares. Redknapp’s gaze now firmly turns to an even bigger grudge match against the Germans.
With Covid-19 ravaging the sporting calendar, we’ve been forced to think outside the box to get out football fix - some of us are reliving the highlights of Euro 96, others of us are now Bundesliga fanatics. But if you’re looking for something a little bit different, as heart-warming as it is surreal at times, Harry’s Heroes could be the footballing fix you need.
The third and final episode of Harry’s Heroes: Euro Having A Laugh airs at 9pm on ITV tonight.