Football is full of what might have beens and former Albion favourite Gary Stevens has more reason than most to wonder.

If Stevens had played in England’s 1986 quarter-final with Argentina in Mexico City, could the course of history have changed?

Stevens was the logical replacement for two players who were injury doubts ahead of the game.

Room-mate and centre-back Terry Fenwick plus central midfielder Peter Reid were both major concerns.

Manager Bobby Robson gambled on their fitness but it was Fenwick and Reid, most famously, who were left trailing in his wake as Diego Marardona carved through England’s defence on a mesmerising run to put Argentina 2-0 up on 55 minutes, just four minutes after his ‘Hand of God’ opener.

Stevens classes it as a disappointment that he was overlooked for that game, having made a significant contribution after coming on for the injured Reid in the last 16 clash with Paraguay for his second appearance of the tournament.

However, he is proud to have played in the World Cup finals and counts himself fortunate to be among the select group of Englishmen to have helped their country reach the quarter-finals or further.

And further it might have been for the man who starred for Albion in the 1983 FA Cup final, leading to a move to Tottenham, but for the injury problems which brought a premature end to his career.

Still breaking through and only 24 in 1986, Stevens would have been in his prime for Italia 90 when England, still under the stewardship of Robson, cruelly lost on penalties in the semi-finals. But that is another ‘what if’.

At least Stevens has plenty of memories to cherish from the Mexico tournament and of an eventful campaign for England which stuttered, threatened disaster, then kicked into life on the back of Gary Lineker’s goals before being ended by the deceit and dazzle of the best player in the world at the time.

Stevens can still recall the moment his World Cup adventure began. He said: “My then girlfriend told me she had just read it on Teletext. She came out into the back garden and told me I had been selected.

“The methods of communication in those days were slightly different than how it is today but that is exactly how I found out.

Diego Maradona's two goals against England in 1986

“I was quietly confident I would be in the squad, based on what Bobby Robson said to me as we walked off the pitch at Wembley after playing Scotland in the Rous Cup, not long before the squad was announced.

“As a kid the dream was to play in top level club football and also play for my country. I was playing for my country and in the biggest tournament in world football as well so it was very special and a great honour.”

The 1986 finals could not have got off to a worse start for England as they lost 1-0 to Portugal in their opening game before drawing 0-0 with Morocco in a match where captain Bryan Robson’s tournament ended with a shoulder injury and Ray Wilkins was sent off.

Stevens appeared as a 75th-minute substitute in that game but did not feature in a stunning 3-0 win over Poland, courtesy of a Lineker hat-trick, which got their campaign back on course.

Stevens recalled: “We had a good squad, there was no doubting that, but we had some problems. Portugal were not a strong footballing nation at the time and neither was Morocco.

“We coughed and spluttered and just managed to sneak out of our group which we were expected to get out of comfortably.

“Football is a game very much based on confidence like most things in life. We knew we were good but our results against Portugal and Morocco weren’t good and arguably Poland were always going to be our strongest group opponents.

“When we really took them to pieces it definitely gave us the belief we were a good side.”

That put England through to the knockout phase where they beat Paraguay 3-0, with Stevens coming on for Reid as a 58th-minute substitute, and after that it was Argentina.

Stevens said: “I remember coming on against Paraguay. If you are running on at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in the World Cup finals in front of 98,000 it is some occasion.

England v Paraguay - with Stevens teeing up the third goal

“I recall I made a forward run, Glenn Hoddle picked me out with a pass and I squared it to Lineker who tucked it in the back of the net. I remember him shaking my hand and thanking me for teeing up him and it was one of the goals that ultimately led to him winning the Golden Boot that year.

“It was disappointing not to play against Argentina. My room-mate out there was Terry Fenwick who was nursing a groin strain and it was debatable whether he should have played. Peter Reid had to come off against Paraguay when we won comfortably with what I thought was a significant contribution from myself and Peter wasn’t fully fit to face Argentina.

“Now if Peter Reid doesn’t play, bearing in mind I had replaced him in the game before, I might well have played.

“If Terry Fenwick hadn’t played, I possibly may have played at the back or maybe Alvin Martin.”