Nessun Dorma podcast: Rangers, Mexico 86 and a season of scandals | Football

So, you’re at home, in lockdown and thinking there is a real dearth of media outlets offering hours of football nostalgia to pass the time? Don’t worry friend, we’ve got you covered. Here at Nessun Dorma we have a hefty back catalogue of the stuff for those of you hunkered down and looking for ways to fill your evenings.

Regulars Lee Calvert, Gary Naylor, Rob Smyth and Mike Gibbons are deep into the third season – also available on iTunes and Spotify. Given these extraordinary times we have decided to up the frequency and switch off the Patreon service, so there will be plenty more episodes in the weeks and months ahead. Stay in, stay safe and wash your hands regularly, and we’ll try and while away a few hours of the day for you.

Lee and Rob are joined by Scott Murray to look back at a season where Rangers won a domestic treble and came within one goal of reaching the European Cup final. And what a staggering run on the continent it was. After shattering the hubris of English champions Leeds United in the second round, Rangers entered the lucrative group stage of the Champions League.

Rangers remained unbeaten against CSKA Moscow, Club Brugge and Marseille on a run that featured unlikely comebacks, the stench of corruption and a winning goal by Scott Nisbet that might be the most outlandish in the history of European competition. Marseille would ultimately pip them to the final, and Rangers have never been anywhere near as close to winning the Big One since.

We’re taking a trip to the 1994-95 season, a landmark year when football went from being merely sports news to the news. Lee is joined by Gary and Rob for a look back at a volatile campaign in the nascent Premier League, which was still largely an insular British pursuit and a long way from becoming the global jamboree it is today.

In this transitional season it felt like a sensationalist drama commissioned by Netflix. Tearing a strip from the nation’s politicians, the game was beset by all manner of scandals including rioting, drugs, alleged corruption and common assault. From the shock of Paul Merson going into rehab to Eric Cantona launching himself into the Selhurst Park crowd, it was a season when off-field events generated as many headlines as anything on the pitch.

Strike up Aztec Gold by Silsoe, because we’re going on a deep dive (and we’re not kidding; ever seen The Abyss?) into the summer of 1986 and the World Cup in Mexico. Gary takes the reins as host and is joined by Rob and Mike for a two-part discussion about one of the most iconic and memorable tournaments of our lifetimes.

Part 1 covers the tournament setting and the draw, followed by a detailed look at the group stages. Argentina’s captain looked ominous; there’s a sensational World Cup debut from Denmark in the Group of Death; and the Soviet players repeatedly send the Adidas Azteca ball searing through the thin Mexican air and into the top corners of the nets in Irapuato and León. There’s also a life-changing hat-trick for Gary Lineker, which led to Barcelona, the Match of the Day hotseat and becoming a national treasure during Britain’s turbulent recent history.

That difficult sequel? Not in this case. Never before or since has the business end of the World Cup treated us to such drama, controversy and brilliance. Manuel Negrete, Igor Belanov and Careca all scored stunners that would win goal of the tournament in any other year; Belgium and the USSR and then Brazil and France contested two of the greatest World Cup matches of all time; tournament darlings Denmark led with their chin and copped one of football’s most brutal thrashings against Spain. And then there was him.

Diego Maradona rounded out his World Cup with a residency in the Azteca from the quarter-finals onwards. He took England apart with the most seminal four minutes in football history before dismissing Belgium four days later with an individual display that was frankly preposterous. Even West Germany coming back from two goals behind in the final (again!) didn’t bother him. If you saw it too, you will know what we mean here – we’ll not see the like again.

Special guest Lionel Birnie joins Gary and Mike for a look back at the England reign of Graham Taylor. Lionel ghosted Graham’s excellent autobiography In His Own Words and is the perfect guide to take us through the first few years of the 1990s, when a transitional England team went from reaching the semi-final of Italia 90 to failing to qualify for the following World Cup in the US.

Plenty happened along the way. There was also the qualification for, and group stage of, the 1992 European Championship, we take a look at Taylor’s relationship with key players such as Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne and remember some deplorable coverage from the tabloid newspapers. We also review the legendary documentary An Impossible Job, which launched a slew of catchphrases but also gave a revealing portrait of Taylor’s character and the unique pressures of managing the national team.

Nessun Dorma is available on iTunes, Acast and Spotify, and you can follow the podcast on Twitter.

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