Fat-free Gascoigne

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PAUL GASCOIGNE is being lined up for an England comeback at this June's four-team tournament also involving Brazil, Sweden and Japan. Gascoigne trained with the England squad yesterday as an "associate member" and the England coach Terry Venables was surprised at his fitness and condition.

Gascoigne broke his leg in training with Lazio a year ago, the latest in a long line of serious injuries, but looks ready to return. Spring lamb-like, he jauntily joined a kick-about at the England camp at Bisham Abbey, bearing little resemblance to the sometime bloated figure of the tabloids. Having shed three stones, he looked more like Kate Moss. "I thought he was whistling at me," said Venables after being greeted by the hollow-cheeked Gascoigne from a distance.

"He looks tremendous," added Venables, Gascoigne's mentor at Tottenham. "I have never seen him looking so light, though he seems to have retained his strength. He is working hard, three times a day to extreme proportions. He's told me he has been through excruciating pain."

Venables expects Gascoigne to be fit to play in two weeks' time, ahead of Lazio's scheduled date, 16 April against Padova. Lazio have worked him hard intraining, though he was unable to take a full part at Bisham because of Lazio's insurance arrangements.

There should be no such problem by the time of England's match against Japan on 31 May. Just the sight of Gascoigne kicking a ball yesterday was enough to lift England's spirits, and the expectation of their potential.

England preview, page 3