"PROBABLY my biggest regret is that I didn't retire from international football, I just didn't get picked again.”

There was an awkward pause when Keith Curle said this to me over the phone, as all of our non post-match press conference interviews have been thanks to Covid.

The silence felt like an eternity but in reality was only a few seconds when, much to my relief, he started to laugh.

Getting to know a new manager’s personality can be tricky enough at the best of times but when you can’t see their facial expressions when he’s making a joke, and when it’s one at their own expense, well... you tread carefully.

But I am quickly beginning to learn that while the former Manchester City captain takes all matters football very seriously, he doesn’t always do the same of himself.

England get their Euro 2020 campaign under way against Croatia at Wembley this afternoon (kick-off 2pm) and there will be flashbacks for Curle, of how his international career ended in their opening group game of Euro ‘92.

A classy centre half and captain of Manchester City, Curle was tasked by England boss Graham Taylor to fill in at right back.

The Three Lions were held to a goalless draw against Denmark but Curle played no further part in a short-lived tournament as Taylor’s men crashed out at the first hurdle, and Curle was not selected again.

"I got selected in the squad as a centre back and maybe with injuries and people pulling out I made my England debut in the Euros playing as a right back,” Curle explained.

"When I played for England I played left back, right back, sweeper.

“People may remember Des Walker - you can't play behind Des Walker. I didn't touch the ball a lot.

“I never played as an orthodox centre back where I'd earned my call-up.

"But as long as you've got an opportunity to represent your country you don't turn it down because it's not your favourite position.

"People can't take my England caps away from me.”

He added: "It was a fantastic experience. Probably the worst thing Graham Taylor and Lawrie McMenemy said to me going out was - not just to me personally but to everybody - 'There's millions of people supporting you'.

"Just before that I'd managed to blank that out and focus on the game and suddenly you're realising the enormity of it, and you're thinking, 'I didn't need to hear that'.”

Curle says the tournament came at a time when media scrutiny of players and performances was intensifying and it proved difficult for the dressing room to handle.

But he feels Gareth Southgate is not only good at preparing his players, but protecting them too.

"When I played the microscopic examination of players from the media had started and there was a nervousness and a tension about the squad. Whereas now, there's a youthfulness about it and there's an excitement and expectation and they just want to go out and they want to play football,” said Curle.

"Gareth's got to take credit for that because he's directed and shielded the players away from a lot of the media attention that at times they can get caught up in.

"I think he's a very balanced individual.”

As for their chances in this summer’s tournament, Curle added: "It's all going to be dependant on how they start. If they start well and build that confidence.

"I think Gareth Southgate has got a very talented squad. He's got an abundance of attacking flair and it's going to be how we, defensively, handle the opposition.

"I think we can score goals. I think England's a little bit like Oldham. Excellent going forward.”