Football: England keen to escape from Gascoigne's shadow: Troubled Taylor argues that no man is an island while Yorath's professionals enjoy a rocky mountain high on a perilous Atlantic island

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S plans to use the US Cup to make a new beginning after their World Cup trauma were blighted yesterday when the overblown shadow of Paul Gascoigne fell across their Massachusetts training camp.

The errant genius was some 5,000 miles away playing for Lazio against Torino, yet continuing speculation about his physical condition marred the first day of preparation for a tournament in which England play the United States, Brazil and Germany over the next two weeks.

Graham Taylor complained that he was 'heartily sick' of being 'grilled' about Gascoigne, but has only himself to blame for the way the subject is dribbling on after telling Sunday newspapers that it was 'all slipping away from Paul'.

Gascoigne's decline worried him, he said, but he was not in a position to say why. 'I can't go all the way down that line. I'd be public enemy No 1 and all hell would break loose.'

The newshounds' noses twitched. Drugs? Women? Taylor stamped on both suggestions and it is fair to assume that 'refuelling' - the euphemism which produced the headline 'You're boozing too much, Gazza' - lies at the root of the problem.

Whatever it is and it seems those comparisons with George Best may have a double meaning, the manager intends to stand by his most gifted player in what is his darkest hour.

Lazio believe the personal crisis Gascoigne is undergoing represents the greater threat to his well-being than the knee injury which kept him out of the game for 18 months, and are seeking help and advice on all sides.

The gravity of the problem was brought home to Taylor when Gascoigne burst into floods of tears after a dressing-room row with team-mates when England played Norway last week, and was underlined in a highly emotional conversation between the two men at Luton airport on the squad's return.

Despite mounting evidence of instability, on and off the field, the manager intends to stand by a player he still regards as a potential match- winner. Taylor is much vexed by suggestions that he is about to 'dump' Gascoigne, and insists his intentions are just the opposite.

He said: 'I feel I'm the only person to have grasped the nettle and I'm suffering because of it. Who was it who said back in November, when Paul scored twice against Turkey, that the problems start now? It was me. It was also me who said: 'Please God, don't let anything happen to him.'

'We've got a talented boy here, and we've seen in the past what can go wrong with talented players. I have supported Paul in the past, and I am supporting him now. What I am saying to him is: 'Come on, I'm waiting for you to be fit and ready in September for the World Cup game at home to Poland.'

The thought that he might not be 'fit and ready' is one Taylor preferred not to contemplate, but he will use the three games here to examine all his options. 'Even if Paul had been here, I was always going to use this tournament to have a look at some of the members of the squad who haven't had the opportunity to show what they can do.

'That is not to say that results don't matter. The Americans are using this competition as a dry run for next year's World Cup, and that is how we must treat it too. That is not to say that results don't matter - they are always important - but we all know that the three World Cup ties, in September, October and November are the vital ones.'

Gascoigne's battle with the bottle, and the heavy rain are not the only dampeners here. England arrived to find the Boston Globe devoting two emotive pages to British hooliganism, and the splenetic Gerry Callaghan of the Boston Herald suggesting that English fans should be teargassed on arrival and ridiculing American involvement with football in general, and the World Cup in particular.

Dwarf-throwing was big in Australia, he said, but the United States was not about to take up that. Nice one, Gerry. Welcome to America.

Brazil won the opening match of the US Cup with a 2-0 victory over the outclassed hosts before a crowd of 44,579 at the Yale Bowl, in New Haven, Connecticut. Careca scored early on but Brazil had to wait until three minutes from time for their second, from Luis Carlos Winck.

Andrew Cole (hernia) and Rob Jones (shin splints) have withdrawn from England' s U-21 squad to play in the Toulon tournament to see specialists about old injuries.