Football: Gascoigne offers England a blast from the past

England's summer tournament in France will not be screened as pay-per-view by Sky. As well as allowing full radio access, the satellite company will also supply highlights to ITV.
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The rainbow nation are headed, appropriately enough, for Manchester, and Glenn Hoddle yesterday offered the hope that their arrival could herald a fresh start for Paul Gascoigne.

We have heard this before and the chance of Gascoigne maturing from wastrel to sober citizen seems ever more unlikely but South Africa offers as good an example of positive change as there is. The Republic's relatively peaceful transition from apartheid state to multi-cultural democracy may be lost on Gascoigne but it shows, in a far more weighty context, that most things are possible.

Hoddle's immediate hope is that against South Africa, at Old Trafford on 24 May, Gascoigne will prove himself fit enough in mind and body to show he can play a significant part in England's World Cup tie in Poland a week later. His long-term aim is that the subsequent tournament in France, whose 23-man squad will be chosen - injury permitting - from yesterday's 27-man party, will give him the chance to revive Gascoigne's career at close quarters.

On past form the tour is more likely to reveal the shape of England's future rather than reprise its past. Hoddle also selected the last of Fergie's "Fledglings", Paul Scholes, to complete the international recognition of Manchester United's remarkable 1992 youth team.

Scholes is joined by four other members of that team, Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and David Beckham. With Gary Pallister also in the party David May and Andy Cole, the only English United players not included, must require counselling. Alex Ferguson's wish for his players to rest has been truly ignored.

"I have not spoken to Alex - he has had the pressing matter of the championship on his plate," Hoddle said. "He has never rung me up and said, 'I don't want player X, Y or Z going on a trip. The squad is picked and I would expect the 22, plus stand-by goalkeeper, who are chosen for France to go.

"We have had our eye on Paul Scholes for some time. He has tremendous talent and an eye for goal. He can link with midfield or play in a deeper role."

Scholes is the only new face which, since Hoddle has already called up 41 players in seven squads, is hardly a surprise. More significant are the disappeared. David Platt, watched by Hoddle on Saturday, remains in the wilderness as do Nick Barmby and, despite Ian Walker being unavailable through injury, David James. Having chosen four keepers for the last two home matches Hoddle has made do with three for a five-match squad. Curious.

Darren Anderton, as usual, is still injured while Tony Adams may be included but is likely to play only in Poland. Hoddle confirmed he would not play against South Africa but refused to rule him out of the Tournoi de France despite Arsene Wenger suggesting Adams' career could be at stake if he does not rest. "There is time to talk to Tony and the medical advisers," Hoddle said. "I have been aware of his ankle problem for some time."

With that we were on to Gascoigne and the conversation went round the usual circles until a foreign journalist piped up to say: "Mr Hoddle, you have gone on record as saying 'If Ryan Giggs was English Gascoigne would be history'." Hoddle's jaw dropped along with both tabloid and broadsheet reporters - how had they missed such a stunning story?

Hoddle anxiously insisted he had never said any such thing, though you could almost see a glint of "if only" in his eyes. The rest of the question, about England's lack of midfield creativity, was valid. This is why Hoddle perseveres with Gascoigne.

"I have spoken to Paul and he has agreed with most things," Hoddle said. "He needs to get back to loving the game of football again, things outside the game have clouded that. He still needs guidance, he needs to focus. He wants to put his game back together again." It might need all the King's horses and all the King's men to do that but at least, judging by recent appearances, Gascoigne no longer looks like Humpty Dumpty.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v South Africa, Poland and Tournoi de France*): Seaman (Arsenal), Flowers (Blackburn), Martyn (Leeds), Adams (Arsenal), Keown (Arsenal), Pallister (Man Utd), Pearce (Nottm Forest), Southgate (Aston Villa), G Neville (Man Utd), Campbell (Spurs), Le Saux (Blackburn), P Neville (Man Utd), Beckham (Man Utd), Ince (Inter Milan), Batty (Newcastle), Lee (Newcastle), McManaman (Liverpool), Redknapp (Liverpool), Butt (Man Utd), Gascoigne (Rangers), Scholes (Man Utd), Merson (Arsenal), Shearer (Newcastle), Ferdinand (Newcastle), Sheringham (Spurs), Fowler (Liverpool), Wright (Arsenal).

* Squad to be cut to 22 plus stand-by goalkeeper for Tournoi de France.