In the wake of the international break I look back and think of the current state of the England national team. Yeah we have qualified but what has happened? We have a team full of stars that I find hard to watch even if you pay me. Where is the flair? The creativity? The enthusiasm? The bulldog spirit and will to win? Why is there no player other than Wayne Rooney who operates on the edge, so genius you don’t know what they will do next…not even their teammates or manager know, let alone the opposition. Where is a player expressive enough to light up England’s national team?
I watched Spain v Scotland and they have this type of player, it seems inherent that they can produce players who operate on a different level to that of the opposition. David Silva looked on another planet last night, backed up by more talent that dares to do the unexpected like Xavi. I long again for a maverick to light up England, it looked as though it could be Wayne Rooney, but it seems the only thing he is on intent on setting alight is himself.
You have to go back to Euro ’96 to see such a player, a genius at work who plays without boundaries…that player is Paul Gascoigne and as I google him, a process that now seems to underpin everyday life, I start to read about the latest instalment of what has been an epic journey of highs and lows.
I firstly encountered Paul Gascoigne as he carved out a reputation for himself on the world stage during Italia ’90. The ball from a free-kick that assisted David Platt’s goal against Belgium was class, as were his displays in all of England’s games during the tournament. People started talking about him as England’s best ever player despite a squad riddled with talent. It was a team that galvanised English football. Hot on the heels of the World Cup I remember his free-kick in the semi-final of the FA Cup for Spurs as they beat Arsenal to reach the final and then went on to lift the trophy. They the test of a true great is their performances at major tournaments and the last time England were good, Euro ’96, who could forget Gazza’s burst from midfield, flicking the ball over a helpless Colin Hendry with his left, before volleying a low shot with his right past Andy Goram…and then the celebration, instant banter.
But with extreme highs, came extreme lows for Gazza, when England went out to East Germany in Italia ’90, Gazza’s tears became a symbolic reminder of a nations pain. And after leading Spurs to the FA Cup final, a moment of madness as Gascoigne went in for a horror challenge with Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles and came out of it with a ruptured cruciate ligament ahead of an £8.5m record transfer to Lazio. This is merely scratching the surface of one of the most controversial careers football has, and probably will, ever see.
It is funny what you remember about a player and my last memory was how he went to see Raoul Moat with some beers and a fishing rod whilst he was in the middle of a standoff with Police…until now.
Paul Gascoigne is on the road to recovery again and at the moment is living in Christchurch Dorset as he continues on the road to recovery from alcohol addiction. The nation has willed for so long for Gazza to sort himself out and hopefully the time has come for him to be happy.
Despite all that has happened Paul Gascoigne galvanised a country and inspired a generation, he is a player that England are crying out for now and a living example to all footballers about the pitfalls of fame and success. His autobiography is released tomorrow entitled ‘glorious’ and is undoubtedly a book that all football fans will want to read and professional players should read.
In a recent interview he gave us an insight to how extreme things used to be whilst he was playing in an extract from his new autobiography ’Glorious’:
We were due to play Sunderland on 12 January 2002. That night I drank three and a half bottles of wine, took 11 sleeping tablets, woke up at 6am with the shakes, took a couple more tablets, finished off the wine, fell back asleep, woke up again at 9am, had a treble brandy, another sleeping tablet, a smoke and went to the game. I was in a terrible state, so I had another treble brandy, took another tablet and went out and played a blinder. Afterwards, I went home and fell asleep. Next morning I asked Jimmy ["Five Bellies", pictured below] how I had done. “Look at the table,” he said, pointing to a bottle of champagne. “You won man of the match.”
It sounds like Sunday league football after a heavy Saturday night out on the town…and then some! The pressure of being so high profile was a struggle for Gascoigne; imagine what the pressures are like now on players, especially with all the abuse most players receive on a regular basis-Gazza’s message should be a warning.
More importantly Gazza should be an inspiration for football. He played the game with his heart on his sleeve, unafraid to express himself both on and off the pitch. I just wish we could roll back the clock for Paul Gascoigne and get him playing for England now, a team that need a ‘Paul Gascoigne’. Greats come and go and are often forgotten, Gazza certainly won’t be and despite a life littered with mistakes, we could all learn a lot from Paul Gascoigne…it was never about the money, it was all about the football.
Here is a link to Gazza’s book ‘Glorious’, make sure you buy it and support a true football legends return from the depths of despair
Treat your eyes and watch the master in action: