When Paul Gascoigne joined Spurs from Newcastle in July 1988 for a British transfer record of two million pounds many saw him as the kind of footballing genius that comes along once a generation. Others mistook his uncontrolled love of life as being a buffoon but this force of nature went on to become a national icon. The story is that at the end of his first training session at Spurs the other players applauded. They wouldn’t be the only ones blown away by his skill.
He made his debut quirky back at Newcastle in a 2-2 draw. The home fans to mark his return and his struggles with his weight showered him with chocolate bars. His home debut came in a 3-2 defeat with Arsenal. Gazza marked the occasion by losing his boot and scoring with his stocking foot. A legend was born.
There were questions about his temperament but his talent was never in doubt and over the next three years we watched him blossom. He had an instinctive flair, defenders never knew what he was going to do, I often thought he didn’t, it just happened. There was a press story soon after he moved to Tottenham. A manager instructs his team to show Gazza on to his weaker foot. The defender says “Yes boss, which one is it”? He is remembered for his mazy dribbling runs through crowded defenses. The sudden changes of pace and direction. Gazza was also capable of the sublime pass over any distance into the path of a teammate. Add to that a willingness to shoot from any distance or angle. He was a joy to watch and did things with a ball that mere mortals couldn’t do in their imagination. Like many geniuses he could be frustrating but he was forgiven because the next moment he could be brilliant.
There were also stories that showed the other side of his nature. Like the time one of the apprentices talking to his mate said he didn’t have the money to buy his girlfriend a present. Only to find at the end of the day a bundle of notes left in his jacket hanging in the locker room. The start of the 1990’s wasn’t a good time to be a spurs fan, the financial clouds that hung over the club got darker and threatened the very existence of the club. Gazza needed to be sold to help keep the club n business. Then he picked up a injury to his stomach muscles and would require surgery. His response was to go on a one man crusade to bring the FA Cup to Tottenham. At Oxford in the 4th round he gave a master class. Scoring twice and making two more. Another dazzling performance and two goals followed at Portsmouth. Into the quarters and Notts County at home. Another excellent display and the winning goal. The first ever Semi-final at Wembley. Arsenal were moving towards a Double, having only lost twice all season. The press said Arsenal were unstoppable but nobody told Paul. He returned from surgery having only played an hour since the operation. What came next was voted the greatest moment in the clubs history in 2007. In the fourth minute we had a free kick 30 yards out. Arsenal had the wall in place and David Seaman in goal. Gazza lined up as if to shoot. Terry Venables rushed to the touchline screaming ‘don’t shoot‘. The TV commentary says it all. ‘Is Gascoigne going to have a crack,.. he is you know,.. oh I say that is Boy’s Own stuff’. The ball rocketed into the top corner. Magic doesn’t come close to describing the moment. Then a few minutes later the other end of his range, a sweet little pass to Allen and on to Lineker, 2-0. He came off and we won 3-1.
When he did he completed his move to Lazio for five and a half million pounds. A new transfer record that stood for three years. He played for several other clubs including Glasgow Rangers and Everton. He later not only scored the goal of the tournament for England’s win over Scotland in the 1996 European Championships but one that was the equal of his earlier one on the same ground.
Paul started 110 games for us with 2 from the bench. Scoring 33 in the process, including 4 against Hartlepool in the League Cup and a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Derby County. His unrestrained love of the game brought joy to millions. His name still brings a smile to the eyes of those who were lucky enough to have seen him play. Thanks Paul
Paul Gascoigne, is he a Lane Legend…..“ he is you know”.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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