Football: Middlesbrough win the race to sign troubled Gascoigne

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The Independent Online
MIDDLESBROUGH are to unveil Paul Gascoigne as their new pounds 3m signing today after secret talks over the last 48 hours.

The Rangers and England midfielder is set to join Bryan Robson's promotion- chasing team and Coca-Cola Cup finalists. He could make an early appearance, even possibly against Norwich on Sunday.

The transfer fee is based on a down payment with a large proportion made up in appearances to cover Middlesbrough because of Gazza's injury problems. Gascoigne has been troubled recently by a calf strain and a hamstring injury at Rangers with reports that he has also had a stomach problem.

Those handicaps cost Gascoigne his England squad place on Monday when Glenn Hoddle also gave him a warning about his fading World Cup chances. Since that decision talks between Gascoigne's agent, Mel Stein, and Middlesbrough have been stepped up. Stein had been at Middlesbrough last week where news broke of a deal with Crystal Palace, confirming that Rangers would let their wayward star go.

Gascoigne was believed to be at a secret location in Teesside last night awaiting a press conference at The Riverside today. Robson is a close friend of Gascoigne and feels his influence can bring out the best of him this season and beyond.

Palace's prospective owner, Mark Goldberg, will be disappointed at missing out on a high profile target with Gascoigne preferring to pick up his career in the Nationwide First Division.

The move south could not have come a better time. Gascoigne was yesterday given a "very severe warning" for his flute-playing mime during Rangers' Old Firm New Year match with Celtic. But the Scottish Football Association decided not to impose a financial punishment as Gascoigne was heavily fined by his club.

Celtic had written to the SFA complaining about Gascoigne's actions and asked them to investigate. The SFA deputy chief executive, Bill Richardson, confirmed yesterday: "The executive committee have given the player a very severe warning that this conduct must not occur again. He has been left in no doubt that a repetition will result in very serious consequences."

Stein made it clear at the time that the incident occurred when Gascoigne was being taunted about his private life. According to Tony Higgins, the secretary of the Scottish Players Union, barracking from supporters has reached an all-time high.

"Basically the SFA have made it clear that will take it very seriously when players make gestures," he said. "That's how the police view it as well.

"Fans have a duty to behave themselves and be aware of their actions. But I believe the level of abuse from supporters to players is higher than ever."