Former England goalkeeper David James has revealed that he used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day when he first joined the national squad. Speaking on Harry Redknapp’s podcast, the retired footballer opened up about what it was like to be part of the Three Lions camp in the 1990s. James, who went on to win 53 caps for his country, said that Peter Taylor was the first coach to take him for a warm-up, which he found exhausting due to his smoking habit. He also spoke about how things have changed since then, with players no longer meeting in the bar until the early hours of the morning.
According to James, players in the England set-up back then had a lot of freedom to do as they pleased. He said that Paul Gascoigne and Ian Wright were part of the squad at the time and that they used to hang out in a communal space called The Queen Vic, which was Ince’s room. They would drink beer, play computer games and smoke cigarettes. James said that not everyone participated, but whoever wanted a drink or a smoke was free to do so.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere, James went on to represent his country in three World Cups and a European Championship. He also won the FA Cup under Redknapp with Portsmouth in 2008. Looking back on his time with the national squad, James said that it was an incredible experience and that he was proud to have played for his country.
In contrast to James’ experience, today’s England squad is known for its strict discipline and focus on fitness. Under manager Gareth Southgate, players are expected to maintain a healthy lifestyle and adhere to a strict code of conduct. This has been credited with helping the team reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020.
The change in approach is partly due to advances in sports science and nutrition, which have led to a greater emphasis on fitness and recovery. It is also a reflection of the changing attitudes towards smoking and drinking in society as a whole. While smoking was once seen as a harmless pastime, it is now widely recognised as a major health risk. Similarly, excessive drinking is no longer seen as a badge of honour, but as a potential danger to health and wellbeing.
Despite the changes, there is still a sense of nostalgia for the days when footballers were allowed to let their hair down and have a good time. Many fans look back fondly on the antics of players like Gascoigne and Wright, who were known for their larger-than-life personalities and off-field antics. However, it is unlikely that we will see a return to those days anytime soon, as the demands of modern football require a high level of discipline and professionalism.
In conclusion, David James’ revelations about his smoking habit and the relaxed atmosphere in the England squad in the 1990s provide an interesting insight into how football has changed over the years. While there is still a sense of nostalgia for the days when players were allowed to have fun, it is clear that the demands of modern football require a higher level of discipline and focus. As such, today’s England squad is known for its strict code of conduct and focus on fitness, which has helped them achieve success on the international stage.