David Platt was one of the most versatile and reliable England midfielders of the Nineties and will be fondly remembered for his first England goal a fantastic volley in the 1990 World Cup. His England success took him to Italy and his time there as a player, captain and manager is fondly remembered.
Although rejected initially by Manchester United, Platt’s resolve to succeed got him a place at Crewe Alexandra. He developed as an attacking midfielder with an unburstable engine and a knack for goal which saw him transfer to Aston Villa in 1988.
The following year he made his England debut under Bobby Robson against Italy in a warm up match for the 1990 World Cup. Italy were looking for practice matches because as hosts, they did not have to go through qualification. Platt acquitted himself well as a second-half sub in a 0-0 draw that stretched England's unbeaten run to thirteen games. In the run up to the World Cup itself Platt gained three more caps, including his first start in a morale-boosting win over Brazil, and was selected for the squad for Italia ’90. He started on the bench, coming on for injured captain Bryan Robson in the second group match, a 0-0 draw against Holland.
This match showed that the team was beginning to gel, and the 1-0 win in the last game against Egypt, when Platt substituted for Chris Waddle, was a triumph against a team who used excessive time-wasting and negative play, going all out for a 0-0 draw.
The second round match against Belgium was the thriller where Platt came of age in the international arena. He came on as a substitute once more, this time for Steve McMahon in the seventy-first minute, as a game that had been played at break-neck speed began to slow down in the heat.
Despite Belgium hitting the post twice, and a Barnes goal being incorrectly disallowed for offside, the teams were deadlocked at nil-nil and penalties looked inevitable as the dying minutes of extra-time approached. Then a free-kick was awarded half-way between the centre circle and the penalty area and Gascoigne chipped the ball over the Belgian defence toward the right-hand post.
Platt edged away, losing his marker and staying onside, and as the ball came over his right shoulder he spun and volleyed the ball over the Belgian keeper into the far corner of the goal. A minute later the final whistle went and a wave of euphoria swept over the English fans as hope returned that the team could deliver something special.
Platt started and opened the scoring against Cameroon in the quarter-final with a bullet header from a Stuart Pearce cross but Cameroon came back to lead 2-1 before two Gary Lineker penalties rescued England. The semi-final with West Germany was another epic struggle, ending at 1-1 with England losing on penalties, Platt burying his but others missing.
After the tournament the fuss was all about Gazza, which enabled Platt to quietly engineer his own move to Italy a year later, moving to Bari for £5.5 million, where he finished ninth in the Serie A top scorers table, a remarkable achievement for a midfielder in his first season.
1992 European Championships
Back with the England side, Platt was no longer the eternal substitute and he drove the England midfield forward as they went to the 1992 European Championship, under new manager Graham Taylor. But England were missing Gascoigne, John Barnes and Gary Stevens through injury, and two draws and a loss in the group stage were not enough to get through.
England went home with much speculation in the press as to whether Graham Taylor actually knew what his best line-up was. By this time Platt had been sold to Juventus by Bari for £6.5 million, but that move would be less successful as Platt found it difficult to keep a place in the team. After a season he moved to Sampdoria where he had two very successful seasons, winning the Italian version of the FA Cup and becoming very popular with the fans.
1994 World Cup
The next challenge for England was qualification for the 1994 World Cup in the United States, and England duly missed that chance. Platt was there, now as captain, and scoring regularly, but it wasn’t enough. In the last but one game against Holland, Platt was hauled down by Ronald Koeman as he went clear on goal, and should have been sent off. But he wasn’t, and a few minutes later Koeman scored with a pile-driving free kick.
That was the end of Taylor’s chances and the vilified manager withdrew to be replaced by Terry Venables. Platt continued as captain and continued to score as too, but as the 1996 European Championship approached, a spell out of the England side meant that Tony Adams took over as the usual captain.
At Euro 96 Platt continued to play his part but mainly as a substitute as Venables decided to keep Paul Ince and Gazza as his main midfield partnership. He did get a start in the semi-final against Germany which ended, agonisingly, with another penalty shoot-out defeat.
Platt, by now back in England with Arsenal, retired from international football after the tournament, his last kick being his successfully converted penalty against Germany. His England goal tally of twenty-seven sees him at number ten in the all-time goal-scoring charts, the highest midfielder in the table. His skills have since been used as a coach and manager with Sampdoria, Nottingham Forest and England Under-21s.