Football: Gascoigne 'out for eight months': Lazio's England midfield player expected to play again as he flies home for operation on double fracture of right leg today

PAUL GASCOIGNE flew back to England from Rome yesterday and is expected to undergo an operation on his broken right leg in a London hospital today. The England international, who suffered a double fracture in a training session with Lazio on Thursday, is unlikely to play again this year, but doctors are optimistic that he will be able to resume his career.

The operation will be carried out at the Princess Grace Hospital by John Browett, who operated twice on the same leg three years ago after Gascoigne suffered serious damage to the knee's cruciate ligament during the 1991 FA Cup final.

From his hospital bed, Gascoigne yesterday told viewers of Channel 4, for whom he records an Italian football programme on Saturday mornings: 'I'm sorry I can't be with you. I'm in hospital in a lot of pain. I will definitely be back with you next week, and I will tell you all about it - but I'm in too much pain today. But I will be back.'

Meanwhile Lazio, who are believed to have taken out a pounds 3.8m insurance policy against possible permanent injuries to Gascoigne, promised to stand by their player, despite their frustration at the injuries which have severely restricted his appearances for the Rome club.

Enrico Bendoni, assistant to the Lazio president, Sergio Cragnotti, said: 'The psychological factor in Paul's recovery is very important. We will try to put him in the best situation for a speedy recovery without him having to suffer any other traumas.'

Gascoigne spent Thursday night in a Rome clinic, where the leg was set under local anaesthetic by Claudio Bartolini, the Lazio doctor.

Bartolini said that Gascoigne was likely to be out of action 'for several months, seven or eight at least'. He added: 'Breaking a leg is not as serious as injuring the knee, but you need to give it time to be sure.' He said that a metal plate or pin would probably have to be inserted in the leg and that a more accurate estimate of the recovery time could only be made after the operation.

Gascoigne was carried on to the British Airways flight to London on a stretcher after arriving at the airport in a private ambulance amid tight security. Fights broke out between photographers, film crews and the airplane staff, who tried to confiscate their cameras. Gascoigne took refuge under a blanket.

On the plane he sat with his right leg encased in plaster from the thigh down. He was accompanied by his fiancee, Sheryl Kyle. He at first refused to talk to reporters, but said later: 'It was just bad luck. I've been really unlucky. I don't know what the future holds.'

Gascoigne suffered the injury in tackling Alessandro Nesta, a member of the Lazio youth squad. 'He made a normal tackle as I was kicking the ball,' Nesta told the Italian daily sports newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport. 'I can't tell what happened exactly, but I realised something terrible had happened when I heard Paul screaming in pain.'

Dino Zoff, the Lazio coach, told the Corriere dello Sport that nobody was to blame for the accident. 'It was a normal tackle,' he said. 'Paul couldn't keep his balance and collapsed. Both of them went for the ball.'

His injury is a blow to the new England coach, Terry Venables, who saw the 26-year-old as a key figure in his plans. Venables said yesterday that he planned to see Gascoigne in hospital. Asked if the injury would end the player's career, he said: 'Absolutely not.'

(Photograph omitted)

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