Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Paul Gascoigne (14)

Goal.com continues to count the top 50 English players of all time today with haunted attacking-midfielder Paul Gascoigne...
No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion

No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
No.36 - Eddie Hapgood
No.35 - Chris Waddle
No.34 - David Platt
No.33 - Phil Neal
No.32 - Johnny Haynes
No.31 - Peter Beardsley
No.30 - Ray Clemence
No.29 - Ted Drake
No.28 - Michael Owen
No.27 - Raich Carter
No.26 - Colin Bell
No.25 - Frank Swift
No.24 - Paul Scholes
No.23 - Tony Adams
No.22 - Martin Peters
No.21 - Billy Wright
No.20 - Geoff Hurst
No.19 - Cliff Bastin

No.18 - Steven Gerrard

No.17 - Glenn Hoddle
No.16 - Bryan Robson
No.15 - Alan Shearer

Paul GASCOIGNE

Born

27/05/1967
Dunston, Tyne & Wear, England

England

57 caps, 10 goals

Clubs

Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Lazio, Rangers, Middlesbrough, Everton, Burnley, Gansu Tianma, Boston United.


Paul Gascoigne's life reads like an audaciously-plotted original film that was born out of the wildly imaginative mind of a desperate studio creative.

The man affectionately known as "Gazza" is famed for possessing a sense of humour that was second to none. He was a smash-hit rapper; the subject of multiple video games; an alcoholic; a haunted man who has battled bi-polar disorder, bulimia, pneumonia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and stomach ulcers. He has admitted to have harboured suicidal thoughts; has confessed to abusing his wife and chidren; has encountered extreme financial problems; and has also been known to partake in the odd cocaine binge, or two. Oh, and there was the little matter of being a genius when it came to playing football.

There can be little rebuttal... he was the greatest English midfielder of his generation.

Paul Gascoigne. Where does the myth leave off and the man begin?

It all sounds like hearsay when you hear of when he rapped a chart-topping song about "Snuckin' sausage rolls", and urinating on walls "We can have a wee wee; We can have a wet on the wall". Or when he was molested by Vinnie Jones in an image that will forever be synonymous with English infamy. Or how about getting booked for, in jest, issuing a referee with a yellow after the officiator dropped his cards and then, undeterred, sniffed the armpit of another man in black? Where to start with Gazza... where to start. Whatever you do, though, don't mention his treatment of foreign media, when a beer-inspired belch that was aired in response to his being probed about his thoughts on being dropped by Lazio, resulted in a club fine. He was also asked by Norwegian media prior to an England international if he had a message for his nation's opponents. "Yes," was his answer. "F*** off," he elaborated.

BEST USER COMMENT

"Vinnie Jones managed to do what sir Alex Ferguson never did, Yep he got his hands on Gazza's Balls =)" - Jameel | England

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Gascoigne was born into a working-class family in the north-east region of England, lived in a number of council houses, and had a tumultuous childhood on which tragedy wreaked havoc. He witnessed the death of a family friend as a close pal of his younger brother was run over by a car. His dad, in an unrelated incident, had a brain haemorrhage and was hospitalised for the best part of a year.

In 1980, when he was 13-years-old, he was snapped up by Newcastle United, and went on to represent the Geordie outfit 107 times; notching up 25 goals during his spell as a Magpie. With a Young Player of the Year gong under his belt by 1988, interest in the stocky hot-shot began to grow. His destination of choice was Liverpool, but Sir Alex Ferguson - who had begun his burgeoning career with Manchester United - was also an avid fan of Paul's. In order to snare Gazza away from Ferguson, Tottenham promised Gascoigne that they would finance a house for his poverty-stricken family. Ferguson found out about the deal while holidaying in Malta. It was to be the last mutual flirtation between Ferguson and Gascoigne as, even though the player was to contact Sir Alex about a move when he was coming to the end of his Lazio tenure, Ferguson brushed the notion off; a decision he was to later claim in his 1999 autobiography Managing My Life as the biggest regret of his managerial career.


Aside from his starring role in Euro '96, Gascoigne arguably enjoyed his finest club spell at Tottenham Hotspur under astute manager Terry Venables. At Spurs, Paul propelled himself into the eyes of the footballing world. He took defenders on, and won. He had great individual skill, scored sublime solo goals, was lethal from dead-ball situations, and had a powerful build and good balance, making him hard to bully off the ball. He could also ride a challenge. But, for all his ability to begin forward motions and embark on good runs, his tackling could be described as Paul Scholes-esque. The person he was to later be the greatest danger to though, was himself. He had sound playmaking credentials as he knew where and when to pass. His attributes during his heyday have served to inspire not just up-and-coming English talent, but also foreign imports such as current Tottenham star Luka Modric, and the productive Russian at bitter rivals Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin.

In north London, he helped Tottenham to sixth- and third-placed finishes in the Premier League, and then, in the following season, his six goals (including one peach of a free-kick against Arsenal in the semis) had a direct say in the club reaching the FA Cup final. However, in the Wembley showpiece itself, Gascoigne was to only make a cameo appearance, as he injured himself during the initial swordsmanship between Tottenham and Nottingham Forest. Match commentators and print journalists at the time noted ominous signs during the pre-game build-up, as Gazza did not seem in the best mind-set to play in a cup final. That trepidation was to prove right, as his reckless challenges resulted in his own career-threatening injury. A rash tackle on Gary Charles, seemingly a repeat of another poor attempt to win the ball from Garry Parker, ended Gascoigne's participation. He was stretchered off and taken to hospital after rupturing his cruciate ligament.

Gascoigne had already brokered a £5.5 million deal to Lazio prior to the final, but his debut for the Biancocelesti was inevitably delayed considerably due to the severity of his injury.

He failed to recreate his sparking Tottenham form at Lazio, despite levelling the scoreline deep into the latter stages of one Rome derby. His time in Italy was noted more for its controversy: the aforementioned burp into a microphone; punching a photographer; breaking his own right leg in a practice match; returning to pre-season one summer carrying a stone and half's worth of excess weight; straining his thigh from getting out of bed; not to mention his admission in 1994 that he beat his then-girlfriend (and future wife); Sheryl.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT

Scoring THAT goal at Euro 96
His return to Britain was to prove successful as, at Rangers, he made a near enough instant impact when he ran the length of the pitch to score in his first Glasgow derby, against Celtic. He scored a hat-trick to rescue the points against Aberdeen later in the season, and was pivotal in Rangers' road to the league title in 1996. Two years later though, a career high was to be followed by a low, as he mimed the playing of a flute in front of the traditionally Roman Catholic Celtic fans; a politically insensitive thing to do, as it is regarded as a loyalist symbol. For this, he received death threats from the IRA for six months.

Gascoigne's international career was just as eventful. He made his debut against Denmark in September 1988, and went on to accrue 56 further caps for England. His contributions during the World Cup in 1990 were influential as he became known for his match-changing assists. He was on form against Cameroon, setting up both David Platt and Gary Lineker. Yet another image that would become famed throughout the globe would originate from a Gazza sentiment as he was carded in the semi-final against Germany, meaning he would have missed the World Cup final had England gone on to beat their traditional foes. Realisation of the consequences of the card saw Gazza tearful and emotional, while play continued around him.

He reached his England high during Euro 1996, and scored one of the goals of tournament history, netting a gloriously inventive solo effort against Auld Enemy Scotland. His celebrations were just as notable, as he was given a "dentist's chair" treatment (with water, not alcohol), which was a direct reaction to the press articles dedicated to the England camp's alleged drinking sessions.

Gascoigne was dropped from the Three Lions team in 1998 by Glenn Hoddle, partly due to injuries, partly due to personal problems, partly due to indiscipline. Whatever the reasons, he was never to play for England again.

It was a somewhat fitting end to what could have been an even more glorious testimony to a player who could have ranked as high as the best in football history, regardless of nationality. But Gascoigne proved, unfortunately, to be the ultimate "highs with the lows" man, as his legacy will no doubt be remembered for his tortuous personal life, as much as for his achievements with the ball at his feet.

HONOURS

FA Cup - Tottenham Hotspur; 1991
Scottish League Championship - Rangers; 1996, 1997
Scottish Cup - Rangers; 1996
Scottish League Cup - Rangers; 1997

PFA Young Player of the Year; 1988
BBC Sports Personality of the Year; 1990
World Cup All-Star Team Player; 1990
Scottish Players' Player of the Year; 1996
Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year; 1996
Inducted into English Football Hall of Fame; 2002

DID YOU KNOW ... that Gascoigne's treatment of his best friend, Jimmy "Five Bellies" Gardner is legendary? He once made Five Bellies eat a mince pie that he made, but he scraped out the filling and replaced it with cat excrement.

He also set up Jimmy with a "girl" he knew to be a transvestite. On another occasion, while Gascoigne was in Italy, he wanted to bring Five Bellies over to Rome to visit him, but Gardner stated he was low on cash, so Paul offered to pay for his flight. Little did Gardner know that Gascoigne paid for the most inconvenient flight path, with endless stops in random destinations, in a trip that should have taken hours, but ended up taking days.

Gardner got his own back on Gascoigne one time, though, as Paul lost a £1,000 bet to Jimmy. The bet was if Gardner could withstand a red-hot lighter to the bridge of his nose for five seconds. It turned out that he could.

Alan Dawson, Goal.com

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