Gazza drinks in the last-chance saloon

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The Independent Online
NOT FOR the first time, though just possibly for the last, Paul Gascoigne's off-field activities consumed about 90 per cent of England's press conference yesterday.

The World Cup finals are just around the corner and Saudi Arabia will play the role of warm-up opponents at Wembley on Saturday.

But at a time when England's finest should be aiming for a peak of mental and physical fitness, Gazza has been spotted out on the town in the past week enjoying a bevy or two with his celebrity friends Rod Stewart and Chris Evans, and, apparently, looking rather the worse for wear because of it.

Coming on top of recent revelations about the player's smoking habits, these latest incidents were almost too much to bear for the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, and he duly issued Gascoigne with what smacked of a final warning.

"He's disappointed me," said Hoddle. "I've told him that and he's apologised. He knows what the next stage is."

The deadline for Gascoigne may well be 2 June, when Hoddle must tell eight players among his squad of 30 that they are not required for the finals in France.

Hoddle conceded that Gascoigne was only 60 per cent fit and that the footballer's lifestyle of smoking, drinking and late-night kebabs, as much as his recent injuries, was the cause.

He refused to accept that Gascoigne, because of his fame and reputation, was under any more pressure than other players who were in the spotlight, and he singled out David Beckham, who is engaged to Victoria Adams, one of the Spice Girls, as an example.

Apologetic as he may have been to his manager, Gascoigne appeared unrepentant. "I never let anybody down when I put on an England shirt," he said. "What I do outside of the game, that's my problem."