David Seaman’s chuckle is almost as famous as his goalkeeping, meaning his hour-long appearance on The Football Gods podcast passes in the blink of an eye.
Seaman, who served Arsenal and England with such distinction throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, has been invited to give his views on several topics including his childhood in South Yorkshire, the components of the ‘Arsene Wenger diet’ and his stance on the Messi-Ronaldo debate.
And one of the most interesting strands of conversation surrounded his experiences with England at the 1998 World Cup and the role infamous faith healer Eileen Drewery played within the camp.
Seaman was England’s No. 1 going into the tournament in France, having excelled at Euro ’96 two years previously and having helped Arsenal win the Double in 1997-98, but murmurings about Hoddle’s management and use of Drewery were ever-present in the background.
This was an era where sports psychology was treated with suspicion from both within the game and across the wider population. Men were supposed to be men and get on with things, not wear their emotions on their sleeves.
“There were psychologists around, but that was more at the start of it all,” Seaman said. “I think now clubs employ people to help players, whereas before you’d have a meeting and think ‘Oh god, we’ve got the psychologists meeting. Surely he knows what I’m thinking?’
“That was our reaction back then, but then you become aware that it can help you.”
“Even Eileen Drewery. As much stick as she gets, I was told before the 1998 World Cup that I needed a shoulder operation and I wouldn’t be back in time to play in the World Cup.
“Glenn [Hoddle] at the time said “What about seeing Eileen” and I was like “Alright then”. I saw her twice, and all she did was put her hands on my shoulder.
“It was two sessions and I never had the operation and I played. All I can tell you is what happened to me. I know a lot of players totally binned it off but I’ve never known anything like it.”
“It wasn’t a deep massage of my shoulder or anything like that. But I do remember going back to the England hotel and falling asleep at six in the evening and waking up at eight the next day.
“It was just so strange, but it worked.”
Seaman would play a crucial role in France, keeping two clean sheets as England progressed through their group before facing Argentina in that classic encounter in Saint-Etienne.
The Arsenal goalkeeper saved Hernan Crespo’s penalty in the shoot-out, but misses from Paul Ince and David Batty sent England out. And to think Seaman may not have been there at all if it wasn’t for Dewery’s intervention.
By Michael Lee
If you were given ultimate power, how would you change football? The Football Gods is a new podcast that puts a different celebrity guest in charge of the beautiful game each week and gives them godly power over the sport.
The show is hosted by Football Journalists Tim Spiers and Kate Mason and is available via the Sport Social Podcast Network, or wherever you listen to podcasts.