Firstly let me just say this isn’t in anyway a eulogy. I hope Paul Gascoigne can beat his demons and live a long and happy life. This article is about remembering Gazza the footballer not Gazza the sad, alcoholic that the media seem determined in showing us every time he falls off the wagon.
I get that he is ill and that may be news but I don’t see the benefits in the tabloids wanting to show us Gascoigne drunk on stage and clearly in need of help. We have seen it all before, we know the story. Most families like mine have witnessed alcoholism first hand. Its an illness that can effect anyone; be it a rich person or a poor one, be it a kind soul or an evil ingrate.
What no one needs, is to see someone in the state Paul found himself in last week plastered over our newspapers and their websites.
The man has a son. Yes they may not speak or see each other but that boy has done no harm and won’t need mates or acquaintances to shove a phone under his nose showing him clips of his dad in a drunken state.
For me, I want to remind people of Paul Gascoigne circa 1995-1998.
Growing up as a Rangers fan, I have strong memories of Paul Gascoigne the talented footballer.
Like most people my first memories of Gazza came in Italia 90, when he became a world star over night. His tears in the semi final against Germany are still an iconic image.
I am truly thankfully for Paul’s time in Serie A with Lazio. That made Channel 4 sit up and take notice of the Italian game. So that meant I had football to watch on Sunday afternoons for most of my childhood.
When someone mentions Alessandro Nesta to me, I don’t immediately think world class centre half or World Cup winner. No I think of the young youth player who broke Gazza’s leg in training back in 1994.
But for me Gazza was only a side show in Italy. He didn’t get the same attention I gave players like Marco Van Basten, Roberto Baggio or Ruben Sosa (a personal choice).
That all changed when one Paul John Gascoigne signed for Glasgow Rangers in July 1995.
I remember the day. It was a gorgeous summers day and I turned on the radio and Radio Clyde reported that Rangers had signed England international Paul Gascoigne from Lazio for £4.3m.
He had turned down offers from teams in the English Premiership in favour of a move to Ibrox. But only after he had told his agent to ‘F-Off’ after Gazza had thought Mel Stein had meant Queens Park Rangers!
From that day, till the day he left Glasgow, the newspapers pages front and back were full of Paul Gascoigne stories.
On his arrival the English midfielder had a new haircut. It was a short style and it was bleach blonde in colour. That haircut took off big time in Glasgow and it seemed like half of the cities residents had that style. I even noticed men in Celtic tops sporting that Gazza look!
He hit the ground running, settling in with the well established squad. He formed a great understanding with Brian Laudrup, the other amazing talent at Ibrox, both would lay goals on a plate for Ally McCoist and Gordon Durie. He would also develop a great friendship with ‘the Goalie’ Andy Goram.
In his first preseason Paul seemed to score for fun but when it came to the start of the competitive season he couldn’t really get going. That of course was just Gazza setting the script. His first competitive goal was saved for his first outing against Old Firm rivals Celtic on their own patch.
He burst a gut running onto a through ball by McCoist before steering it past the Celtic keeper with his first touch finish. His legend was born.
He secured that legendary status on the second last game of the season. When he scored a wonderful hat-trick against Aberdeen, that secured Rangers their eighth title in a row.
Aberdeen took the lead that day. But then Gazza stole the show.
His first saw him take in a low corner from Laudrup with two players on him. He would take on both men, getting into the area before he opened up his body and lofting it over the keeper.
His second strike was sublime. On the 80th minute, he picked the ball up inside his own half, he takes it for a run, shrugging off three challenges, as he enters the penalty area he has three players around him. Gazza then just side-footed the ball home with his left boot. Ibrox erupted!
His final goal was a well placed penalty that nestled into the corner of the net. It was without doubt one of the best hat-tricks and performances I have ever seen at Ibrox.
Another great Gazza goal in Govan was his Champions League strike against Steaua Bucharest. He was often criticised along with Brian Laudrup for not performing on the big European nights but that goal against Steaua was a beauty. It was another goal where he just picked up the ball, stuck out those sharp elbows, avoided challenges and passed the ball into the back of the net. He would then celebrate by sticking his tongue out and clasping his hands over his head. That summed up Gazza during his Rangers years, he went from the sublime to the ridiculous in mere seconds.
Those years at Ibrox saw Gascoigne play some of the best football of his career. He called Ibrox his footballing home and said that the Rangers gaffer Walter Smith got the best out of him.
There are so many unforgettable Gazza moments from that time.
Rangers are a very traditional club. Each injured player is told they need to wear a suit and a club tie when on club duty inside the stadium. So Gazza obliged but instead of wearing a plain navy blue suit like everyone else, he wore his Gers tie alongside one of his garish multi-coloured Versace suits.
Then there was the time he picked up a card the ref had dropped during a game against Hibs. Instead of just handing the card back, typical Gazza had to show the ref the card as if he was now the referee. This humour would then see Gazza booked as the grumpy ref didn’t see the funny side.
His teammates were often the butts of his pranks. He would put dead fish inside Gordon Durie’s car seats and let them rot in there until the smell was too much for Durie who had to sell the car on. Erik Bo Andersen rightfully took the hump when Paul decided to pee on him before training.
He was one of the first players I can remember being booked for over celebrating after he jumped the advertising boards at Firhill. Once he stopped completely still with the ball at his feet and just stared at Motherwell’s Simo Valakari and instead of stealing the ball off him Simo, who was stunned, just stared back!
Then there was the full on kiss he had with Super Ally after a goal against Caley Thistle.
In the middle of his spell at Rangers, Euro 96 happened!
Scotland would face the hosts and one Paul Gascoigne at Wembley.
England would take the lead through an Alan Shearer header. Then in the dying moments Scotland won a penalty. Unfortunately for Gary McAllister the ball moved on the spot and his penalty was saved by David Seaman.
England immediately launched an attack and the ball was sent over to Gazza. He lobbed the ball over Colin Hendry with his left foot before volleying it past his pal Goram with his right. It was an incredible goal and he followed it up with another iconic celebration that saw him reenact the dentist chair photo that was in the tabloids before the tournament.
Goram famously blanked Gascoigne when they saw each other again during preseason training later on that summer.
This isn’t a romantic tale of all that was great and good about Gazza’s spell at Rangers.
During his stint north of the border he would indulge more and more in drink. He would even have nips of whisky before games and sometimes at half time during big games, stating it settled his nerves. He did occasionally turn up for training still drunk from the night before. The Rangers dressing room at that time did have a drinking culture and in the long run that wouldn’t have helped Paul Gascoigne the man as he battled against alcoholism.
It was while he was at Rangers that Gazza would hit the headlines for shamefully beating his then wife in a Scottish hotel. He would then react to Celtic fans, who had taunted him over his unsavoury behaviour, by using a flute gesture which he knew had sectarian connotations.
Paul Gascoigne isn’t a saint. Far from it. But we can look past his misdemeanours and see the gifted footballer who just loved entertaining a crowd with a ball at his feet.
At Rangers Paul won two very important league titles, he also helped the club win a League Cup and a Scottish Cup. Along the way he would win the Scottish Players player of the year and the writers player of the year.
I have written this to try and remind people of why I loved Paul Gascoigne the footballer and to try and give the man the respect and dignity he deserves.
The media love nothing more than a Gazza story that sees him fall off the wagon. To me thats sad. Yes he has had plenty of chances and he needs to help himself if he wants to overcome his terrible addiction but the newspapers hounding him and setting him up for falls wont see him get the help he needs.
I wish Paul a speedy and safe recovery and would like to tell him and all his fans to remember the good times as there were plenty of them!
I’d also urge football fans especially new ones to search youtube for clips of Gazza the footballer, as he was a genius on the park.
Posted on February 4th, 2013 by scott
Filed under: Article