In 1990, then England manager Bobby Robson famously referred to Paul Gascoigne as “daft as a brush”. As it turned out, Bobby didn’t know the half of it.
Still, if “Gazza” has sometimes shown suspect judgement in his day-to-day life, he was unquestionably something special on the pitch. One of England’s finest ever players, let’s take a look back at Gascoigne’s football career, and remind ourselves of some of his most memorable moments. And no, we don’t mean Fog on the Tyne.
Winning the FA Cup with Spurs, 1991
In a sense, this one tells us so much about Paul – what looks like triumph at first glance was actually a disaster.
During the FA Cup final, the keyed-up Gascoigne lunged into a tackle with Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles just 15 minutes into the match – badly injuring himself in the process. Gazza had torn cruciate ligaments in his right knee that would see him miss the entirety of the next season.
Still, if Gascoigne had a final to forget, the above free kick against Arsenal in the semi-final a month earlier was a moment to savour…
1990 World Cup campaign with England
Gascoigne didn’t score during the 1990 World Cup in Italy, though he did make two assists – including a crucial pass to David Platt for a memorable last gasp goal against Belgium.
But the player’s most famous moment came in the semi-final against Germany, when he was booked for a foul. Because he had previously been shown a yellow card in the game against Belgium, this second booking meant Gascoigne would be suspended for the final, assuming England could get there.
Gascoigne was visibly upset, tears welling in his eyes as he realised he would miss the final. As it turned out, England didn’t make it anyway; the game would be decided by penalty shootout, with Germany prevailing.
Yet far from hurting Gazza’s reputation, the player’s on-field inability to keep a check on his emotions made him the most famous sportsman in England; he would go on to win the Sports Personality of the Year in late 1990, and was generally viewed sympathetically by the British public.
Yet if Gazza had managed to muster a stiff upper lip, rather than a wobbly bottom one, who knows – maybe the result of the semi-final might have turned out differently. Maybe it’s better not to tug at that thread…
For a variety of reasons, Gascoigne’s time in Rome isn’t looked back on as a success; the player was supposed to have joined Lazio in the summer of ’91, but because of the aforementioned injury he didn’t even make his first appearance for the Serie A side until September ’92.
Gascoigne also admitted to struggling to adapt to the culture of a new country, while his own boyish sense of humour didn’t always translate too well. On one occasion he caused outrage by belching into a television camera; he also continued to struggle with injuries and fitness during his time in Italy, making just 43 appearances, and scoring only six times.
But there were good moments too, like Gascoigne’s debut goal for Lazio. Scored in the final minutes of the Rome derby against bitter rivals Roma, it was certainly enough to endear the Englishman to Lazio fans.
Euro 1996 goal against Scotland
Playing for the host nation, there was a sense of optimism around England in this competition – at least up until the semi-final, when Germany would once more get the better of the Three Lions.
Still, before that, there were glorious moments in this competition. Like the 4-1 dismantling of the Dutch, certainly – but also Gascoigne’s wonderful individual moment against the Scots, when he took a touch to leave Colin Hendrie floundering, before volleying the ball past keeper Andy Goram for a good-as-it-gets goal.
League and Cup success with Rangers
When the 28-year-old Gascoigne left Italy it wasn’t to return to English football. Instead, the mercurial midfielder joined Scottish giants Rangers, quickly delighting fans of his new club as he scored against Celtic in his fourth league appearance for the Gers.
Rangers would win the league and the Scottish Cup in Gascoigne’s first season with the club; the midfielder’s 19 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions was enough to earn him the PFA Scotland Players’ Player of the Year award.
In all, Gazza would win two league titles, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup during his nearly three years in Glasgow. Ally McCoist said, “I think we got the best of Gascoigne when he was at Rangers.”
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