Paul John Gascoigne is a former England international footballer and football manager. He is also known by his nickname, Gazza. He earned 57 caps during his England career and has been described by the National Football Museum as “the most naturally gifted English midfielder of his generation”. Born and raised in Gateshead, the midfielder signed schoolboy terms with Newcastle United, before turning professional with the top tier (pre-Premier League creation) club in 1985. Three years later he was sold on to Tottenham Hotspur for a £2.2 million fee. He won the FA Cup with Spurs in 1991, before he was sold to Italian club Lazio for £5.5 million the following year. In July 1995, he was transferred to Rangers for £4.3 million, and helped the club to two league titles and two trophies. He returned to England in a £3.4 million move to Middlesbrough in March 1998. He made his debut in the Premier League in the 1998–99 season, having already featured in the 1998 Football League Cup Final. He switched to Everton in July 2000, and later had spells with Burnley, Gansu Tianma (China), and Boston United. He was part of the England squad that reached fourth place in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, where he famously cried after receiving a yellow card in the semi-final with West Germany, which meant he would have been suspended for the final itself had England won the game. He also helped the team to the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 1996, scoring a goal against Scotland which was described as one of the best of the tournament. In the later parts of his career and especially following retirement, Gascoigne’s life became dominated by severe mental and emotional problems, particularly alcoholism. He has been jailed or sectioned on numerous occasions and his personal struggles receive regular coverage in the British press. He has frequently attempted to live without alcohol, though rehabilitation programmes have provided only temporary relief. His personal issues ended his coaching career, and he has not worked in football since being fired as the manager of Kettering Town in 2005.
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Gascoigne left Scotland to join Middlesbrough for £3.45 million in March 1998, where former England teammate Bryan Robson was manager. His first match was the 1998 Football League Cup Final defeat to Chelsea at Wembley, where he came on as a substitute. He played seven games in the First Division, helping “Boro” into the Premier League as runners-up to Nottingham Forest at the end of the 1997–98 season. Before the 1998–99 campaign began, Gascoigne began suffering from blackouts after blaming himself for the death of a friend, who died after Gascoigne and a group of friends went on a night out drinking. Despite his ongoing personal problems and his spell in rehab, Gascoigne started the season in good form and helped Middlesbrough into fourth place by Christmas. They ended the season in ninth place and having scored three goals in 26 top-flight games Gascoigne was linked with a recall to the England squad, who were now managed by former teammate Kevin Keegan and lacking a creative presence in midfield. His career went into terminal decline during the 1999–2000 campaign, with Gascoigne breaking his arm after elbowing opposition midfield player George Boateng in the head during Middlesbrough’s 4–0 defeat to Aston Villa at the Riverside Stadium. He subsequently received a three match ban and £5,000 fine from the Football Association.
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A creative, hard-working, and technically gifted playmaker who played as an attacking midfielder, Gascoigne was capable both of scoring and setting up goals, due to his passing accuracy and his powerful striking ability. Gascoigne was gifted with pace, physical strength, balance, and excellent dribbling skills, which allowed him to protect the ball, beat opponents, and withstand physical challenges. Despite his talent, he was also criticized for his erratic behaviour and aggression on the pitch. His turbulent and often unhealthy lifestyle off the pitch, as well as his tendency to pick up injuries, is thought to have affected his career.
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Gascoigne was called up to the England under-21 side in summer 1987, and scored with a free-kick in his debut in a 2–0 win over Morocco. He went on to win 12 caps for the under-21s under Dave Sexton. Gascoigne was first called up to the full England squad by Bobby Robson for a friendly against Denmark on 14 September 1988, and came on as a late substitute for Peter Beardsley in a 1–0 win. He scored his first goal for England in a 5–0 victory over Albania at Wembley on 26 April 1989. He made his first start in the following game against Chile, and kept his first team place for most matches in the run in to the 1990 FIFA World Cup. He also played four games for the England B team. He secured his place in the World Cup squad in a 4–2 win against Czechoslovakia when he scored one goal and was a key component in the other three. He played in all three of the group games in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and England topped Group F, Gascoigne providing the assist for Mark Wright’s winner against Egypt. In the first knockout game against Belgium he made another assist after chipping a free-kick into the penalty area, where David Platt volleyed the ball into the net. Gascoigne was at the centre of the action again in the quarter-final clash with Cameroon when he gave away a penalty, which Cameroon converted. In extra-time he made a successful through-ball pass from which Gary Lineker won, and subsequently scored a penalty, which proved to be the winning goal. On 4 July 1990, England played West Germany in a World Cup semi-final match at Juventus’s Stadio delle Alpi in Turin. Gascoigne, having already received a yellow card during England’s 1–0 victory over Belgium in the second round, was booked for a foul on Thomas Berthold, which meant that he would be suspended for the final if England won the match. Television cameras showed that he had tears in his eyes following the yellow card and made Gascoigne a highly popular figure with the sympathetic British public. The match culminated in a penalty shoot-out, which the Germans won after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed their penalties. Robson quit the England job after the tournament, and his successor Graham Taylor dropped Gascoigne in favour of 32-year-old Gordon Cowans in a Euro ’92 qualifier against Ireland in November 1990, citing tactical reasons. He returned to the starting eleven for a friendly against Cameroon the following February, before injury in the FA Cup final three months later caused him to miss the next 21 England fixtures, including all of UEFA Euro 1992, where England failed to progress beyond the group stages. Gascoigne returned to fitness in time for the opening qualifying game against Norway in October 1992, and before playing in the 1–1 draw he responded to a Norwegian television crew’s request to say ‘a few words to Norway’ by saying “fuck off Norway”. His message was broadcast on Norwegian television and he was forced to apologize for the remark. The following month he scored two goals in a 4–0 victory over Turkey. Qualification ended badly for England, as they ended in third place behind Norway and the Netherlands and missed out on a place in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. A broken leg in 1994 meant Gascoigne was unable to play for 15 months, but by the time he returned to fitness, Terry Venables – his former manager at Spurs – had been appointed as England manager. As England were hosting UEFA Euro 1996 they did not have to go through the qualification process, so they instead played numerous friendlies, most of which featured Gascoigne in the starting line-up. The last of these games was played in Hong Kong, after which numerous England players were photographed on a night out in which Gascoigne and several others having drinks poured into their mouths whilst sitting in the “dentist’s chair”. The tournament opened with a 1–1 draw with Switzerland, during which Gascoigne was substituted. He scored a memorable goal in the second game of the tournament, against Scotland, when he received the ball from Darren Anderton outside the Scotland penalty area, flicked the ball over Colin Hendry with his left foot and changed direction; Hendry was completely wrong-footed and, as the ball dropped, Gascoigne volleyed it with his right foot past Andy Goram. The goal was followed by the “dentist’s chair” celebration referring to the incident before the tournament, where Gascoigne lay on the ground as if he were sitting in the dentist’s chair, and teammates sprayed lucozade from bottles into his open mouth. England beat the Netherlands 4–1 to make it through to the knock-out stages. They then drew 0–0 with Spain before winning 4–2 on penalties, the last of which was converted by Gascoigne. England drew 1–1 with Germany in the semi-finals, and Gascoigne missed the chance to win the game in extra-time when he came inches away from connecting to an Alan Shearer cross yards in front of an unguarded German net. England lost to Germany in the resulting penalty shoot-out, with Gareth Southgate missing England’s sudden death penalty. Under Glenn Hoddle, Gascoigne was picked regularly and helped England to win the Tournoi de France in 1997 ahead of Brazil, France and Italy. Qualification for the 1998 FIFA World Cup went down to the last group game against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, and Gascoigne put in a disciplined and mature performance to help England secure the 0–0 draw that was enough to take them through to the tournament. However, British tabloid newspapers showed pictures of Gascoigne eating kebabs late at night with DJ friend Chris Evans only a week before the final squad was due to be chosen. Hoddle elected not to pick Gascoigne in the final squad and after hearing the news Gascoigne wrecked Hoddle’s room in a rage before being restrained. Gascoigne was never to play for his country again, having won 57 caps and scored 10 goals.
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Gascoigne was well known for his funny and hilarious personality. He was the authentic leader in every team he played for. We remember several crazy pictures of him during the games. One of the funniest ones happened on 30 December 1995, in a match against Hibernian. Gascoigne was booked by referee Dougie Smith after he picked Smith’s yellow card up from the ground and jokingly ‘booked’ the referee.