On this week’s show we review the life and times of former England star Paul Gascoigne, as well as our usual features which include:

Transcript

Ask any England football fan to name the best ever player to have represented the national team and they will probably argue over the merits of stars such as, Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore or Booby Charlton, Kevin Keegan, Gary Lineker or even David Beckham (just kidding about that, David!). But if you were to ask them which England player was the most exciting or entertaining, unpredictable and possessed the most skill then the majority of those supporters would probably nominate Paul Gascoigne.

Gazza, as he came to be known, has gone through some tough times since he retired from the game and was even rumoured to have died last week – a claim that forced the British police to issue a statement denying the fact. One thing that cannot be denied however is the player’s supreme footballing ability.

Born in the north of England he went on to play for his beloved local club Newcastle in 107 games, and scoring 25 times. The Geordie fans loved him but realised he would move onto a bigger club so there was some surprise when he joined Tottenham in 1988. The Spurs fans also loved him and he took them to 6th and 3rd places in the league in his first two seasons there while he also helped the team to an FA Cup final in 1991 with a free kick to remember against north London rivals Arsenal in the semi final.

If that was sublime then the ridiculous emerged in the final itself when after only 15 minutes he was carried off after a dreadful tackle on a Nottingham Forest defender that left him with a knee injury that ruled him out of football for more than a year.

Such was his reputation however he was signed by high-flying Italian club Lazio and though he was never the same player after the Cup final injury he was loved by the local fans especially when scoring the winner against crosstown rivals Roma. But inconsistent performances – blamed on his injuries and his fondness for the nightlife – meant he was sold to Scottish club Rangers in 1995 where he had a successful three years before moving onto Middlesbrough and then Everton in the Premier League.

Now Gazza played 57 times for his country but we all know that it should have been more. Managers were afraid to play him as he was deemed unpredictable but when he finally got his chance in the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy he took it with both hands with outstanding displays against Holland, Belgium, Cameroon and Germany in the semi final. And it was in this game that Gazza really entered the hearts of the English public as his tears on receiving a yellow card meant he would not be able play in the final if England had made it. This iconic image summed up the player – proud, patriotic yet extremely vulnerable.

Despite the injuries that blighted his career he once more featured for England in an international tournament – the 1996 European Championships scoring yet another memorable goal – this time against Scotland.

England lost yet again to Germany in the semi final of that competition and Gascoigne never repeated his earlier achievements. Left out of the England squad for the 1998 World Cup finals in France, Gazza began a downward spiral of destruction with reports of binge eating, alcoholism and even domestic violence dominating the newspapers.

He then had an unsuccessful stint in China, changed his name to G8, managed a non-league team for a month before being fired and generally suffered humiliation after humiliation. In recent times he has been arrested for violent behaviour, drunkenness and has even been sectioned under the mental health act of the UK. With this in mind and the fact that Gazza never won the Premier League or even appeared in an international final he will always be near the top when it comes to those lists of all time England greats.

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