England Caps : 75
Player : 1988 - 2002
Despite question marks over his ability in certain areas David Seaman was the Number One England goalkeeper for over a decade and became a national hero after his performance in the 1996 European Championship, when football only just failed to come home. The ponytail that he sported during the latter half of his England career took attention away from his skill as a first class shot-stopper and he was second to none in one-on-one situations.
Early MovesSeaman started at Leeds United and then spent most of the Eighties moving towards the club he is most associated with, Arsenal, via Peterborough United, Birmingham City and QPR. The move from QPR to Arsenal, in 1990, was an English record for a keeper at the time, at £1.3 million.
Debut But No Regular PlaceBy this time Seaman had already made his England debut, under Bobby Robson in 1988, although Peter Shilton was still the number one keeper. Robson was pleased enough with Seaman to nominate him as second choice keeper in the squad for the 1990 World Cup, but although he went to Italy, Seaman had to pull out through injury, Dave Beasant taking his place.
Shilton Retires and Everyone Jockeys for PositionThat World Cup marked the end of Shilton’s long England career but Seaman had to battle it out with Chris Woods, who had been Shilton’s England understudy since 1985, and then later on, Nigel Martyn. It was these two keepers who would keep Seaman out of Graham Taylor’s squad for the European Championship of 1992, where woeful England performances saw them coming home after ending up bottom of their group.
Taylor Survives, But to What End?Somehow Graham Taylor kept his job as England manager after that fiasco and lurched towards the World Cup of 1994, destined not to make the final tournament. Seaman was in goal for the final three qualifiers, the most crucial being the away return to Holland.
England lost two-nil, the first goal a free kick from Koeman which appeared to catch Seaman off guard. As the ball moved across Seaman from right to left, He stretched out for it with his right arm rather than his left, and could not get enough on the ball to palm it away. Although Seaman can’t be blamed for the loss, or for the failure to qualify, this did sow seeds of doubt as to his suitability for the job.
Football Comes HomeThat was all to change under the new manager, Terry Venables, and the swelling tide of enthusiasm that gripped England as Euro 96 approached. As hosts, there was no qualifying to worry about and the team caught the mood, sweeping Scotland and Holland aside after a nervy start, and only capitulating at the semi-final stage with another agonising defeat by Germany on penalties.
Penalty KingSeaman played his part, in particular saving a penalty at a crucial stage in the Scotland match. Had Scotland scored (to equalise) they would have undoubtedly mounted a serious challenge. As it was, the save, plus Gascoigne’s wonder goal a few minutes later, broke their spirit. It was another penalty save, this time during the shoot-out, that saw England past Spain in the quarter-final too, and Seaman was voted onto UEFA’s ‘Team of the Tournament’, along with Alan Shearer and Steve McManaman.
1998 World CupIn the 1998 World Cup in France, England went out to Argentina in the second round but it was Seaman’s saves, one from Hernan Crespo in particular, which kept the score at two-each as England’s 10-man team defended, following David Beckham’s sending off.
Keegan Keeps the FaithWhen Kevin Keegan took over from Glen Hoddle he continued to keep faith with Seaman. Although he did try out other keepers such as Martyn, Richard Wright and David James, it was clear that Seaman was still the most consistent. At Euro 2000 though, Seaman was injured and Nigel Martyn took over, making an error of judgement against Romania in a 3-2 defeat that saw England go home after the group stage once again.
After that, the World Cup qualifying campaign began in a calamitous fashion, Seaman still trying to arrange his defensive wall when German Dietmar Hamann took a quick free kick. Seaman couldn’t keep it out and Germany had beaten England 1-0 in the last game to be played at the old Wembley Stadium, about to be demolished.
Keegan Runs AwayKeegan immediately resigned and some months later Sven-Goran Ericsson took up the reigns, again keeping faith with Seaman and inspiring the team to qualify for the World Cup, to be held in Japan and Korea. An injury to Seaman meant that Nigel Martyn got a chance in the side once more, featuring in six of the last seven games in the run up to the tournament, but Seaman was fit and back in the side in time for the real action.
Solid performances, including some heroic defending from Seaman against Argentina, took them through the group stages and second round to a quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil.
Whoops!England took the lead through a Michael Owen goal mid-way through the first half, but Rivaldo equalised just before half-time and then five minutes later Ronaldinho took a free kick out on the right hand touchline. The looping, swerving ball that Ronaldinho sent in, from fully 40 yards out, went over a furiously back-pedalling Seaman and into the net.
Traumatic EndSeaman was inconsolable after the match and blamed himself, and back home appeals for his removal were muted by the fact that there was really no clear successor to his throne. But two games later, in a qualifier for Euro 2004 against Macedonia, Seaman allowed an in-swinging corner to go straight into the net, and although Eriksson was publicly supportive, Seaman was never selected again.
Outstanding RecordOnly Peter Shilton, with 125, gained more caps as England keeper, Seaman having passed Gordon Banks total of 73 at that soul-destroying match against Brazil in Shizuoka. His goals-against average is lower than Gordon Banks, Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton, the England keepers who preceded him.
Off the pitch, Seaman gained widespread support when he cut off the ridiculous ponytail he’d been growing since Euro 2000, at a charity function in 2005. But as a keeper, rather than a style arbiter, his record speaks for itself.
He never officially retired from international football until he retired from football itself in 2003, while recovering from a recurring shoulder injury. At that time he had just joined Manchester City and ironically, his final act at City was to recommend his successor to then manager Kevin Keegan; the man he chose being David James, who had just taken his place as England Number One.