‘Brolin, Dahlin, Brolin….that is glorious, absolutely glorious!”
One of the many iconic moments of commentary from the great Barry Davies, although not one remembered with much fondness by anyone of an English footballing persuasion.
It was the final nail in the coffin for England’s hopes at the 1992 European Championship as hosts Sweden, thanks to the winner from Tomas Brolin, overturned an early deficit to put Graham Taylor’s men out of the tournament at the group stage.
It also made it two successive Euros in which England exited without failing to win a game. Oh well, the World Cup two years previously wasn’t too bad and that wonderful summer of 1996 was next up when it came to tournament football.
That Sweden defeat remains infamous for bringing an end to the international career of Gary Lineker, unceremoniously substituted with the game at 1-1 before his retirement, a goal shy of equalling Bobby Charlton’s then goalscoring record.
It also signalled the finale for another England career which didn’t enjoy the same level of influence or longevity as Lineker and others, but absolutely the same degree of passion and pride.
Former Aston Villa and Wolves winger and later Molineux fitness chief Tony Daley suffered a serious cruciate injury in the pre-season which followed the 1992 tournament, and never again would he reach the same standards of explosive and exhilarating wingplay which propelled him with such pace to the top of the English game.
It feels unpatriotic, even treason, to be recalling such a low point in English footballing history at a time when the current England crop, despite one or two stumbles, are trying to inject some optimism and excitement into this year’s European Championship.
To redress the balance, read here what it meant to Daley to represent his country, even if his international career came to a perhaps slightly premature end after seven caps at the age of 24.
“It was an amazing feeling, unbelievable,” he recalls.
“One of those things you dream of from such a young age when you start playing football.
“And it’s not just for you but your family and friends – my Mum and Dad were so proud.
“My Dad loved his cricket and was a big West Indies fan and he would always want them to beat England.
“But to see the pride in his face when I was playing football for England was something else.
“We had a strong family unit, I’ve got three brothers and three sisters, and to know what it meant to them as well and hopefully to add some happiness to their lives was really humbling.
“I wanted to do well for them just as much as I did for myself.”
The beginning of the Daley footballing journey which would take him all the way to the Three Lions took place during his formative years in the Newtown area of Birmingham.
Directly opposite the family home was William Cowper School, with a stretch of grass and a wall that became hallowed turf for Daley and his brothers who would pop through the open gate or climb over if necessary.
Daley would be put in goal by his older brothers – standard – but would come out to “run rings around them’ before being regularly hacked down. A sibling sign of things to come!
“That was a great grounding for me,” Daley recalls with a laugh.
“My brothers didn’t want to hurt me, they were just keeping me grounded, and it certainly prepared me for what was to come later on!
“I would just react by giggling and taking it as a compliment, just as I did when getting kicked throughout my career, I just got used to it.
“But like so many kids I just loved football and would permanently have a ball with me.
“Even in the house, my Mum would be telling me off because she thought I was going to break stuff!
“My Mum and Dad were great, but they also knew how important my education was, and wouldn’t let football get in the way.
“I remember the once I got an average school report – not bad, just average – and my Mum came home, didn’t say a word and just produced a letter for me to take in the next day.
“It was a letter saying I wasn’t allowed to play any competitive football for three months, and that I needed to show improvement with my education.
“To someone who just wanted to play football, that was a real lesson, a harsh lesson, but one which I soon understood and turned into a positive.
“It taught me the importance of education and the importance of being disciplined, doing things right, and I translated that into my playing career and life after that as well.”
Daley’s England heroes as he grew up comprised Kevin Keegan, Mark Chamberlain and Steve Coppell.
Other heroes, those of his beloved Aston Villa such as Mark Walters, Gary Shaw, Des Bremner, Gordon Cowans and Alan Evans – he actually ended up playing in the same team as many of them.
Daley had trained with Birmingham City and Blackpool as well as Villa before signing schoolboys forms at Villa Park at the age of 14, making his debut at 17 in a team including some who had lifted the European Cup in 1982.
His contribution was certainly both relished and appreciated, the explosive power and pace lighting up the Claret & Blue faithful and including spectacular goals from a flying volley against Everton to a mazy run against Luton, another volley against Manchester City or a run from his own half and top corner finish against Chelsea.
Daley was in the Villa squad which finished as top flight runners-up in the 1989/90 and the 1992/93 seasons and won the 1994 League Cup, beating Manchester United in the final.
“I feel very fortunate and blessed to have played for my boyhood club and for it, in the main, to have gone so well,” Daley reflects, on over a decade spent at Villa Park.
“First of all training with my heroes, who I had watched in the stands, and then playing in the same team, that was mesmerising.
“The worst thing that happened was a cruciate injury and a few hamstring issues but I have such fond memories of the club – the fans, the staff, everything.”
By the time Daley moved on to Wolves in 1994, signed by his former Villa boss Taylor, he had already picked up those England caps, also on Taylor’s watch.
And Wolves fans love their wingers. Particularly those who are quick, direct, and nudge them off their seats.
The arrival of Daley and his former Villa team-mate Steve Froggatt set the Molineux juices flowing.
Midway through the season John De Wolf, Don Goodman and another of Daley’s ex-Villa colleagues, Gordon Cowans, would follow.
There was a sense of positive anticipation, but for Daley that optimism evaporated quickly as the first of a series of injury issues prevented him from ever getting the opportunity to build up the sort of head of steam that had previously seen him fly down the wing, as the Villa Park song went, ‘like a torpedo’.
“I was at Wolves as a player for four years, and all I ever wanted to do was to help the club kick on and get to the Premier League,” he explains.
“But it just didn’t happen for me, all because of injuries.
“In and around that huge disappointment, I can’t speak highly enough of the staff and everyone around the club, and the fans were magnificent with me.
“As a player, I was going through some really dark days, not being able to play and contribute to the team – it was really tough.
“The club gave me the help which I needed, along with family and friends, getting me through such a difficult time.”
Sadly Daley would never hit the heights reached earlier in his career, although another spell under Taylor at Watford saw him score once – rather aptly against Birmingham – before missing a chunk of the season as the Hornets buzzed their way to promotion.
He spent six months with Walsall and then a final flourish in non-league with Forest Green Rovers before hanging up his boots, although in no way walking away from football.
That advice from his parents – ‘be disciplined, be the best you can be’ – continued to ring in his ears, and after completing a degree in Sport Science he spent several years as fitness coach at Sheffield United before moving to take on a similar role, back at Wolves, in 2007.
It was there he would spend a decade, a rollercoaster decade littered with both promotions and relegations, but generally always accompanied by a familiar jibe from the Molineux faithful: ‘How can we have a fitness coach who was injured for so long when he was with us as a player?’
Daley takes a deep breath. But he really, genuinely, doesn’t mind it.
“Yes I heard that mentioned quite a lot and it is what it is, and of course I understand it given what happened to me as a player,” he responds.
“Everyone is entitled to an opinion, you are never going to please everyone all of the time, but I am very thick-skinned when it comes to things like that and it certainly didn’t hurt me.
“My motivation was to be as successful a fitness coach as I could be, just the same as when I was a player.
“It goes back to that same level of dedication that my parents taught me, to crack on and be the best I could and nothing was going to stop me trying to achieve that.
“Over almost ten years I would like to think I did a decent job, there were many highs and lows but it was great to come back to Wolves in that different capacity and I really enjoyed it.
“And what I will always remember is being able to fulfil the ambition I hadn’t managed with Wolves as a player – promotion to the Premier League.”
Daley remains held in high regard by those Wolves players who came under his wing during his lengthy spell as head of fitness and sport science, even though they vehemently claim he once misjudged the repeated 600 metre distance in the heat of a pre-season in Australia which meant they had to run further.
That’s a charge he equally vehemently denies by the way.
As every new managerial regime arrived following Mick McCarthy’s departure, they would be given the chance to work with the club’s backroom staff and make a decision on whether they wanted to keep them.
Right up until the time Nuno Espirito Santo checked in and was given the opportunity to instigate a complete overhaul, Daley was always kept on. Which fills him with immense pride.
That longevity allowed him to build up a strong affinity with all things Wolves, even amid the growing gold and black/claret and blue rivalry which has intensified in recent years.
Wolves are still Daley’s much-liked and much-followed ‘second’ club – let’s face it, you can just change your first, can you?
“I’ve never denied I am a Villa fan, they were my club growing up, but I never gave anything less than 100 per cent for Wolves either as a player or a coach,” he explains.
“Having spent four years at the club as a player, and then the best part of ten on the staff, Wolves are definitely my second team and I want them to be as successful as possible.
“The only time I ever wanted Wolves to beat Villa was when I was at the club and up against them as a fitness coach!
“As a Villa fan I want Villa to win those games now but I love seeing Wolves do well.
“There was no one singing their praises more than me for the success they achieved under Nuno, winning the Championship and then doing well in the Premier League and going into Europe – it’s been fantastic.
“I have a great affection for Wolves and I always will have.”
Having a foot in both camps has also given Daley insight into the trio from both sides representing England in the European Championship.
He worked with Conor Coady during his first two seasons at Wolves, and close links to Villa mean he is equally well versed on Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings.
“Coads, I mean what a guy,” says Daley.
“From the moment he arrived at Wolves he was very talkative, very professional and held himself really well.
“He is a leader on the pitch and conducts himself superbly off it, but that is only the additional part to the fact he is a really good player whose passing range is phenomenal.
“He is in that England squad not because of his leadership and organisation but because he deserves to be there on ability.
“Jack Grealish is someone I have known for a while and I followed his Villa career all the way through, including when he went to Notts County on loan.
“For me he is a good lad and a fantastic pro – he may have made mistakes like we all do but it is how you respond and learn from that and he has developed to become captain at Villa.
“He is not a screamer or a bawler, he leads by example, and with his ability, I think the higher he has gone the more comfortable he has been in showing he belongs at that level.
“Tyrone Mings too – we talk about Conor being a talker and a leader and Tyrone fits that bill as well.
“During the lockdown I have been fortunate to do some co-commentary of Villa games and when there are no fans, all you can hear is Tyrone shouting.
“Again I am really pleased to see him in the England squad and playing well in the Euro’s while he is also a very intellectual lad as well.
“I have been really impressed with how he has spoken about Black Lives Matter and discrimination which is so important.”
It isn’t just the players with whom Daley has links within the current England squad.
He didn’t overlap with boss Gareth Southgate at Villa, but he did work with England’s lead physiotherapist Steve Kemp at Wolves.
“If I go back to how determined I was to make it to play for England, that is how I describe Kempy as well in his career – he has always been very driven, in a good way,” says Daley.
“He wanted to go out and progress to become the very best physio that he could and it is no surprise to me to see where he is now.
“I worked with Kempy for around four years at Wolves and have got a lot of time for him – the England team are certainly in safe hands!”
Talk of England, talk of the Euros, brings back those memories for Daley of his own international experience, which began during Bobby Robson’s tenure as he first hit the heights with Villa.
Daley was actually an unused substitute on that glorious Wolves afternoon when Steve Bull came on to mark his England debut with a goal against Scotland, and was also looking on from the bench in a game at the Republic of Ireland before his chance finally arrived.
By this time his former Villa boss Taylor was at the helm, and Daley came off the bench to replace Andy Sinton – another future Wolves link – in a European Championship qualifier in Poland in which a draw secured England’s spot at the 1992 finals.
Of his seven caps in total, the last against Sweden was the only defeat, and just one was on home soil – against Brazil at Wembley – with each both carefully cherished and enjoyed.
“The ambitions I had growing up, to play for my boyhood club – that was ticked off – and then to play for my country, it was amazing,” Daley recalls.
“Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous as anything the first time I got called up, as being in the same squad as such top players was very different to lining up against them.
“I was a quiet and shy person at the time, even if my exterior with my dress and appearance and the way I played football was more extrovert!
“All the established names though – Gary Lineker, Stuart Pearce, Johnny Barnes – players like that made me feel so welcome.
“I can’t really explain what it felt like to get on and make my debut against Poland.
“But what might sound silly is that even at a young age, it wasn’t just a big ambition, I actually felt I was going to achieve it.
“There was no negativity or wondering how tough it would be or if I was aiming too high – I just knew it was going to happen.
“I think that is sometimes the difference – and I bet the England lads would say the same now – that you develop a belief so that it’s not just about saying it, but doing everything you can to achieve it.
“Even at my school there were probably two or three players who were more talented than me, but probably didn’t quite have the mentality or the resilience to go on and do more.
“If you look at Messi and Ronaldo now – and don’t get me wrong I am in no way comparing myself to them as they are on a different planet – but it’s not just about their talent.
“How do they still play so well and stay right at the top of their games? Mentality.
“The ultimate world class players have it, and being motivated to carry on is not about money, but the desire to win and ability to never ever get into a comfort zone.
“And that can filter down to the rest of us to have that same mentality whether it’s when making your debut at club level, having a big move, or playing for your country, just as it drove me on.”
Daley hadn’t made it into the 1990 World Cup squad, although he can be seen in the background of the video for the famous ‘World in Motion’ pre-tournament song recorded by New Order.
But Euro ‘92 was a different matter and while it proved his international swansong, and a tough tournament for both England and manager Taylor in particular, it is still a memory not to be forgotten.
“Being named in the squad was incredible and I always remember everything else associated with it and not just the football,” Daley begins.
“You’d have companies giving away things like Sega games and other stuff, so many media commitments involved, I can’t imagine what it is like for the players now with everything they have to do.
“It wasn’t a great tournament on the pitch, and there was a lot of negativity around the manager from the press at the time, so dealing with that was another learning process.
“I think everyone knows how important Graham was to me, not just to my professional career but on a personal level as well.
“He was always there for me, although we didn’t get off to the best of starts at Villa and I regularly got ‘caned’ by him if he wasn’t happy.
“If I felt I had done really well in the first half, but right at the end made a mistake by maybe not tracking back he would go absolutely mad at me during half time.
“But if I came in after an absolute stinker, not being involved in anything and thinking I was going to get dragged off, he would hammer everyone else for not passing to me and I would go back out feeling on cloud nine.
“It’s the man management of knowing how to keep everyone on their toes, and how to get the best out of everyone, not just me but all the players in the team.
“It was a difficult tournament but still one I remember just for being involved, and it was as good as it got as I did my cruciate the following pre-season and while I did manage to win the League Cup with Villa, I never got back to the England scene again.”
Since leaving Wolves four years ago Daley has moved in a different direction, but remains very much involved in football.
He is the founder and CEO of 7Daley, a fitness platform which traverses the whole strength and conditioning spectrum from working with professional and academy players to members of the public.
Based at the Lions Den Gym in Bassetts Pole, 7Daley also has its own range of supplements combining personal training and good nutrition in just the way Daley would have done during his many years as a player and coach.
“We work right across the range from professional players to members of the public and it is still something I really love doing,” he declares.
And so, not a million miles away geographically from where he first hopped over the gate to a school field on the very first steps towards his footballing dream, Daley is still as committed to improvement as he ever was.
Of everything that transpired in the years in between, the seven appearances made for England will forever be etched in his memory.