Full Name: Paul John Gascoigne
Date of Birth: 27/5/1967
Paul Gascoigne commonly known as ‘Gazza’, is a legend of English football, PR nightmare and a player so popular he even had a phenomenon – ‘Gazzamania’ – named after him. The midfielder has oft been compared to the fated George Best for his charismatic football style, personal battles with alcoholism, colourful social activities and wife beating during the mid 1990s. He has not shied away from this area of his life and his biography Gazza: My Story and subsequent book Being Gazza: Tackling My Demons, show the man behind the football.
Newcastle United: 1984 – 1988
Paul John Gascoigne was born in Dunston, Gateshead on 27th May 1967, the son of John Gascoigne and Carol Harold. His early life was traumatic with his father moving to Germany to find work and suffering from a massive brain haemorrhage that left him incapacitated for 8 months. Growing up on the rough streets of the Tyne was never easy but the young Gazza found solace in football and proved his skills from a young age.
A regular fixture in his school team, Gazza also played at U14 level for Redheugh Boys’ Club before making his debut for Gateshead Boys. It was here where the young Gazza first caught the eye of the scouts and he went on to have trials at Ipswich, Middlesbrough and Southampton while 13. However, due to his small stature, none of the clubs were prepared to offer a contract. Gazza had his last trial at Newcastle and in the summer of 1980 was signed to the schoolboy squad.
In 1983 he started playing for the youth team, managed by Colin Suggett. His debut for the first team came on April 13th 1984, against QPR. The then manager of the club – Jack Charlton – brought the young Gazza on as a substitute in the second half. However, at that stage Gazza remained first and foremost a stalwart of the Youth team and in 1984, he successfully captained the Newcastle Youth to victory in the FA Youth Cup.
The following season would see Gazza given his first start for the Magpies in the first game of the season against Southampton. Gazza went on to make a further 35 appearances during the rest of the season and scored 8 goals for the club, the first being against Oxford United in a 3-0 home victory. Gazza continued playing in a black and white shirt for a further 2 seasons and the 1987-88 season saw him awarded the Barclays Young Player of the Year.
Tottenham Hotspur: 1988 – 1992
In the summer of the ’88 season Gazza agreed to sign to Spurs for £2.3million and was also awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The then manager Terry Venables displayed a vast enthusiasm for the young Geordie, seeing him as a great addition to the Spurs squad. However, the start was ominous with Gazza arriving both unfit and overweight – an early indication of the difficulties Gazza’s name has become synonymous with since.
After much hard work, Venables was proved right about his young signing and his performance in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal has become the stuff of legend for Spurs’ fans. Concerns over Gazza’s health had again dominated the pre-game commentary as, following the 6th round defeat of Notts County, Gazza had undergone a hernia operation and it was doubtful whether he would be able to start against Arsenal. However, much to the joy of the Tottenham masses, Gazza proved his mettle, scoring a fabulous 35 yard free kick that screamed past David Seaman sealing victory for the Lilywhites.
In the 1991 FA Cup final Gazza was hyped-up by the occasion and some over-zealous tackling was to prove his downfall. In a late tackle against Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles, Gazza ruptured the cruciate ligaments in his right knee and his proposed transfer to Lazio had to be delayed for 12 months.
Laziö: 1992 – 1995
Lazio forked out £5.5million for Gazza to join and his first game was against Genoa in Rome. However, although his time at the club was heavily publicized, Gazza was plagued by injury, first breaking his cheekbone and then his leg in the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
Despite some excellent displays, Gazza is perhaps most famous during his Italian excursion for some of his high-jinks, including burping into microphones, teaching his team-mates to swear in thick Geordie accents and making his minder think that he’d killed himself.
Glasgow Rangers: 1995 – 1998
After making just 47 appearances for the Italian club, in June 1995 Gazza announced he was joining Glasgow Rangers for £4.3million. In his first season at the club his performances were startling and he was named Scottish player of the season. However, he continued to struggle with injuries and missed several games at the start of the following season.
In 1997 he returned and Rangers went on to win their ninth league title with Gazza agreeing a new deal to stay at Ibrox until 2000. However, his time at Rangers was also a difficult period in his personal life and after marrying his wife Sheryl in 1996 he was widely lambasted for his violent behavior towards her at home and his poor conduct and irresponsible manner on the pitch.
Middlesbrough: 1998 – 2000
In 1998, despite 2 years of his contract remaining, Rangers entered into discussions with Crystal Palace and proposed a £3m transfer. However, Gazza rejected the deal and elected to return to Tyneside, signing for £3m to Middlesbrough under the leadership of long-term peer Bryan Robson.
This move actually represented a downgrading from top class football for Gazza, as Middlesbrough were only a first division side. However, the 1998 season was to see ‘Boro promoted to the Premiership but Gazza’s performances failed to impress Robson and in 2000 he agreed to release him on a free transfer to Walter Smith at Everton, who had formerly managed Gazza at Rangers.
Everton: 2000 – 2002
Walter Smith was already wise to the dangerous personality changes that Gazza was capable of and in signing him he openly admitted that he believed he was taking a risk. In order to mitigate this, he ensured that Gazza tied himself to a series of clauses to protect Everton. However, in 2000/01 Gazza ended up checking into an Arizona Rehabilitation Clinic following a lapse into alcoholism.
Gazza’s performances at the club were mixed but his second season at the club saw increasing first team appearances despite suffering from a further hernia and thigh problems. However, with the departure of Walter Smith in March 2002, Gazza elected to leave the Blues to move on to Burnley for the remainder of the 2002 season.
After leaving Burnley, Gazza decided to take his talents to China and played for Gansu Tianma for a single season in the Chinese Football League. However, his time at the club was brief due to the SARS scare and he returned to be player/coach of Boston United in 2004. However, Gazza only coached the club until October 2004 and made 3 appearances for the South Lincolnshire Club before announcing his full retirement.
In 1987 Gazza, while at Newcastle, impressed the selectors enough to be included in the England U21 Squad. He went on to have brief spells in the England B team before making his full team debut against Denmark on the 14th September 1988, when he came on as a substitute.
His first goal for England came against Albania in a world cup qualifier for Italia ’90 and his performance in the 4-2 victory over Czechoslovakia sealed his place in the squad. It was during the semi-final at the Delle Alpi Stadium, Turin, that the most iconic image of Gazza was beamed around the world – tears flooded down his face as England were knocked out in the semi-final penalty shoot out against long term rivals West Germany. Gazza however, proved a central figure in England’s play and was named in the all-star team at the end of the tournament.
The injury problems which Gazza suffered throughout his time at Lazio compromised his ability to play for England and his next tournament of note was Euro ’96 under Terry Venables. Gazza’s goal against Scotland, where he chipped the ball over Colin Hendry’s head before volleying it from 25 yards out past the Scottish keeper Andy Goram, is now the stuff of legend and acknowledged as one of the goals of the tournament.
England again reached the semi-finals before losing but Gazza’s tenacity and footballing brilliance had again earned him the respect and love of his country. Gazza’s final England performances were under the eye of Glenn Hoddle and he helped the team qualify for France 98. However, his drunken behaviour and lacklustre performances led Glenn Hoddle to leave him out of the final squad, a decision much criticized by the media and fans alike. However, the decision would mean that Gazza’s England career officially came to an end with 57 caps and 10 goals being his record.
- PFA Young Player of the Year: 1988
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year: 1990
- Scottish Players’ Player of the Year: 1996
- Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year: 1996
- Inducted into English Football Hall of Fame: 2002
|1985–1988||Newcastle United||92 (21)|
|1988–1992||Tottenham Hotspur||92 (19)|
|2003||Gansu Tianma||4 (2)|
|2004||Boston United||5 (0)|