Kings of Football: Paul Gascoigne

England has never seen such a maverick, a genius with the ball at his feet. Paul Gascoigne was one of the best creative talents the nation ever had. He was an unorthodox player with one of the most brilliant minds. When you combine the two, it created one of the best players to never win a major international trophy.

Club

As a young Geordie boy, there is nothing more than giving your all for your local club, and during Gascoigne’s first full season at Newcastle, he hit the ground running as someone with his excellence should. He scored nine goals in 35 first team appearances in all competitions in central midfield. Being a bright spark in a mediocre Magpies’ side, he was named as the PFA Young Player of the Year and listed on the PFA Team of the Year in the 1987-88 season, and was the subject of offers from both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. After agreeing to move to Old Trafford with Alex Ferguson, he decided to move to Spurs for a record British fee of £2.2 million. His most memorable moment at Spurs will be his performance during the 1991 FA Cup Semi-Final against rivals Arsenal, where he scored one of the best free-kicks Wembley has ever seen. During the Final in 1991, he busted his knee after a bad tackle on Gary Charles.

The injury did affect Gazza. He lost a yard of pace but his genius was still apparent to see. He moved to Italy to play for Lazio and while he did not win anything during his time at the club, he made quite an impression on Italian football. After two seasons, he moved to Rangers in Scotland, and helped guide them to two league titles, a league cup and a Scottish FA Cup. Despite his aging years, he moved back to England to help Middlesbrough get to the Premier League, and had spells at Burnley, Everton, and Boston as well as a period in China. He played for a number of clubs, but always expressed his love for the game by his brilliance on the ball.

England

No one knew what Paul Gascoigne was going to do. He was a true magician. He helped make Bobby Robson’s last tournament as England manager a memorable one. He more than played his part to help his country get to the 1990 World Cup semifinal, only to lose to Germany. Gascoigne will also be remembered for his challenge on Germany’s Thomas Berthold, which he was booked for. The caution sent him to tears as he would not have been able to play in the final if England had got there. He lost his head and England lost their rhythm and the game. He, however, was vital in 1990, with assists against Egypt, Belgium and Cameroon.

Six years later, and England were finally looking like a team capable of winning a tournament, and Gazza was back in Terry Venables’ team. He was outstanding in the 1996 Euro Championships, and his goal against the arch enemy Scotland is one of the greatest England goals ever, with one of the best celebrations ever, mocking the dentist chair scandal.

He had the world at his feet. Paul Gascoigne impacted the game so much in the centre of the park, he was creative, he scored and his technical greatness will never be topped again. Names such as Ross Barkley come to mind but they did not have the love that he had for the game. He gave 100 per cent ever game, and he would never want to be second best. His elegance on the ball was something everyone should witness, because it will never be seen again.

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