It was an early train down from Wigan; sandwiches made, pies collected from Poole’s Pie Shop and a Morrison’s carrier bag full of tinnies.
We were mainly lads that liked a beer, a bit of clobber, and a day out at the football. A day out at Orient or Brentford, Barnet or Fulham.
However today, on Saturday 15 June 1996 we were heading to London for the England v Scotland Euro 96 group game. With the press on the backs of the players after a gigantic p*ss-up in the Far East, along with scare stories in the (same) press of hooligans called Hamish and mega firms from Maidenhead, here we were getting on a train that had departed from Glasgow only hours earlier.
Thankfully there were no problems as plenty of Wiganers were there - what with the Latics "Being big on the England scene" at the time (whatever that meant). There was also no problem as the Scotland fans on the train were just normal folk - having a beer at 7.40am - and the journey passed in no time.
The sun was shining and the weather was fine as it always appears to be in London as we made our way around the corner to Speedy's cafe for the Wigan ritual of a Full English before walking the short distance to Baker Street. Every pub was rammed with England fans everywhere; gangs of lads from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne, having a beer, having a mooch and having a laugh before moving up to Wembley. Bizarrely – the film maker and restaurant critic – Michael Winner drove past us in his Rolls Royce waving regally to all and sundry. That should have told us it was going to be a different day.
“Three Lions on our chest” was only whimpering along at this stage as England had started the tournament with a disappointing 1-1 against Switzerland when Alan Shearer’s goal was cancelled out by a late Swiss penalty. There were nerves in the air but once inside the Old Lady the atmosphere kicked-in before settling into an edgy game. Nil-nil at half time before that man Shearer made it one-nil eight minutes into the second half.
He flicked the ball past Colin Hendry in a move that is known as the game as “taking the p*ss”
The joyous mood was temporary as it soon became evident that one goal wouldn’t be enough. This was confirmed when Scotland were given a penalty. I didn’t watch it - I just listened to the roars around me and knew that David Seaman had just saved Gary McAllister's penalty. Suddenly Wembley was bouncing and it still was when the peroxide-haired Paul Gascoigne collected the ball some way outside the Scotland penalty area before revealing his true genius as he flicked the ball past Colin Hendry in a move that is known as the game as “taking the p*ss” before taking the ball with his other foot and volleying past club team-mate Andy Goram.
It was a magnificent goal, a magnificent moment and, although we didn’t see it at the time as we were busily embracing the person next to us, the celebration was to become just as infamous.
Gascoigne – who of course had been central to the piss-up in Hong Kong lay on the ground as his team-mates squirted water into his mouth, in a re-enactment of the "dentist's chair " drinking game which had taken place during that trip.
It’s been said since that the players had decided to do the celebration beforehand and it just had to be Gascoigne who scored the winner on that hot, sunny day: The red-faced Geordie lad with the cr*p haircut - the lad that was daft as a brush – had written his own script.
England went on to win the game 2-0 and we headed back to Euston picked up some tinnies and bags full of bhajis and samosas from the Ambala Sweet Centre (another Wigan London away day custom) before getting the train home.
On the train back word filtered through that earlier in the day a huge bomb had gone off in Manchester city centre. We were completely unaware of it on that beautiful perfect day.
This was before the wide usage of mobile phones and social media, when Shearer and Gary Neville were on top of their game, and when a daft Geordie lad with a stupid haircut scored one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen and, probably, changed football forever.