The naïve exuberance and precious, vulnerable talent of England’s Paul Gascoigne.
Millions upon millions of words have been spoken and written about the career of Paul Gascoigne; the glory and the gormless, the poetry and the prose, the joys and the tears. If one aspect of the career of Duston’s finest ever sportsman epitomises his footballing life however, it is surely the time he spent wearing his country’s national shirt. It was that most rare of occasions, when a young English footballer burst onto the world stage offering up the promise of a talent so extraordinary that it created a dream of glory, but then crashed and burnt in flames that consumed hopes and talent without mercy. There’s a phrase that’s often referred to when talk of Gascoigne and his time with England arises, so I’m going to borrow it from Gary Lineker. Let’s “have a word” about Paul Gascoigne’s time playing for England. Continue reading →
“Have a word!” Why football should reach out a hand to Paul Gascoigne
You didn’t need to be a lip-reader to understand the mouthed words. It was a typically overenthusiastic tackle, not malicious but, in fairness, it probably warranted a yellow card. Thomas Berthold certainly didn’t help matters, and why would he? Rolling around on the ground was very much de rigueur during Italia ’90 when a foul had been committed. The Brazilian referee with the English surname, Jose Roberto Wright, brandished the card and, knowing he wouldn’t play in the World Cup Final if England got there, Paul Gascoigne began to cry. Skipper Gary Lineker looked to the side-line at manager Sir Bobby Robson, or plain Bobby as he was then, and nodding at his tearful teammate asked his manager to, “have a word.”
Wind the clock forward two dozen years, and that same Paul Gascoigne is probably past tears now, having probably shed a million or so in the intervening years. His life, once so full of promise, has turned into the sort of tragic story that seems destined to end in the most tragic way. I’ve seen various opinions of Gascoigne as a player in his pomp. Some have said he was ordinary and over-rated, and of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. For me however, he had that ability to run at pace with the ball at his feet and beat a player on either side, creating problems for opponents at the heart of their defence. Enough of any debate about his talents however, that isn’t really the issue now. Were he a more ordinary type of player the story would not be any less sad. The fact that he appeared so mercurial, and with what the late Sir Bobby described as a, “daft as a brush” mentality means however that Gascoigne’s dilemma is being played out in the full glare of publicity.