Gazza gets the boot in playground poll

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The Independent Online
The football star Paul Gascoigne received the biggest snub of his chequered career yesterday - from a bunch of junior schoolchildren.

The blow was delivered by nine-year-old Aaron Young, who conducted a playground survey to decide if Gascoigne should play for England in today's World Cup qualifier with Georgia.

Gascoigne had been Aaron's favourite England player but the school goalie was so angry about the allegations that he had beaten up his wife, Sheryl, that he decided to canvass the views of classmates during playtime to see if they thought the star should be dropped.

The schoolboy then borrowed his mother's computer to type out his findings and presented a report on the survey to his class teacher, Christine Pedrick.

The results showed that 68 per cent of the children Aaron interviewed at Harvington Church of England First School, near Evesham, Worcester, believed Gascoigne should have been dropped from Glenn Hoddle's England squad.

The other 32 per cent were in favour of the Glasgow Rangers star keeping his place. "I did like Gazza before this but when I heard about the alleged assault on his wife, that put me off," said Aaron, who supports Aston Villa. "I felt very strongly that Gazza should not play for England and I wanted to find out what the other children thought.

"I went around the playground asking people and taking notes. I was quite surprised by the results, because I thought Gazza would get more support. I think Gazza has lost a lot of fans over this this."

Altogether Aaron quizzed 25 people at the school. Among them were three teachers - the deputy head, Stephen Wilkes, was the only staff member weighing in with support for Gascoigne.

All five females questioned by Aaron - including two teachers - agreed that Gascoigne should have been dropped.

The headmistress, Marcia Palmer, said: "The staff didn't put any personal oars in here - Aaron did this purely off his own bat.

"Aaron has what I call a true sportsman's attitude - he is very positive and caring to other people and this is the kind of thing Aaron would feel quite strongly about.

"People need to realise that children do have moral values. Often we under-estimate their ability to know what is right and wrong - and in some cases adults could do well to take note of their views. Here is a child who is saying this man used to be my idol but not any more.

"It would be interesting if Gazza was to read Aaron's report, because being condemned by a group of nine-year-olds might shock the young man. Thank goodness there are children like Aaron who understand that kind of behaviour is wrong.

"But for every Aaron there are many boys who have Gazza as their hero and therefore consider this behaviour acceptable. Stars like Gazza have a moral responsibility and the chap has got to grow up.

"I feel sorry for him, because it's sad and I would certainly want to give him another chance but I don't think I would have picked him this time."

Aaron's mother, Lyn Young, of Rushford, near Evesham, said: "We had been talking about this matter as a family and Aaron was disgusted that Gazza was included in the squad even though his problem hurt someone else.

"He has always been a great admirer of Gazza's play. But all Aaron's friends are keen football fans and he was conscious it was a bad example to set."

England in Georgia, page 30