Emile Heskey reflects on magnitude of England's 5-1 win at Germany
Fifteen years after helping England rout Germany 5-1 in Munich, Emile Heskey can finally appreciate the magnitude of a result that left even Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad shell-shocked.
The Three Lions visit Germany this weekend for just the second time since one of the greatest nights in English football history, when the current World Cup holders suffered only their second loss in 61 qualification games courtesy of a thrashing nobody foresaw.
England had fallen behind to an early goal from Carsten Jancker at a venue where the hosts were unbeaten in 28 years, before staging a fightback that would ensure football immortality for those who pulled it off.
"You will always be remembered for it," said Heskey.
"Everyone asks questions. You walk around the street and everyone says, 'Thank you for that 5-1, it was brilliant.'"
Heskey, now 38 and spending the latter stages of his career with Bolton, can reminisce about that September evening but, in the immediate aftermath, there was merely a sense of disbelief in England's ranks.
Germany were top of the 2002 World Cup qualifying group, had beaten England in their old Wembley send-off 11 months earlier and were ahead until Michael Owen pegged them back and Steven Gerrard drove in his first international goal.
Owen went on to complete a hat trick in the second half and Heskey scored a fifth to cap off an incredible win, though it did not change the demeanour of England's ice-cool Swedish manager.
"We went into the changing rooms and we were like -- what's just happened?" Heskey said.
"It was amazing, what happened. There was no time to celebrate, we had to get back on the plane, get home and play another game. Even Sven came in and said, 'Ah, well done'. And that was it. We thought -- is that all he's giving us?
"We knew what we were capable of doing. You sit down and take it all in, it's not until later when you actually realise what you've actually done."
Fast forward nine months and England were eliminated from the World Cup in the quarterfinals by eventual champions Brazil, who won the final against the German side Heskey and Co. had annihilated.
England's era of Owen, Gerrard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and others went on to fall at familiar hurdles in major tournaments and, nine years on from their Munich humbling, Germany exacted revenge in the 2010 World Cup with a 4-1 win in a match that Heskey was a part of.
A rebuild that Germany had started in 2001 then culminated in a World Cup success in 2014, when England failed to progress beyond the group stage.
"They kept with the same young players who actually peaked at that time," Heskey added.
"They kept with a philosophy that these players will all know each other inside-out, all play for each other really well and it showed. I don't think we got left behind, we just probably weren't good enough at that time."
If Roy Hodgson and his current staff can learn anything from 2001 and its aftermath, Heskey believes it is the way both teams had successful generations that grew up together.
His partnership with Owen was forged in England's junior ranks before they were paired together early on in their senior careers and Heskey has urged Hodgson not to be afraid to gamble with youth in France this summer.
"If they are good enough there's no reason why you can't throw them in," he said. "The experience comes from actually playing them, you've got to play them at some stage.
"Individually I'm very impressed with that squad, I think it's a great squad. Who wouldn't want Dele Alli? Who wouldn't want [Harry] Kane? Who wouldn't want [Jamie] Vardy? As a team, I don't think it's quite gelled as much."