Football: Gascoigne's red card increases the speculation

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PAUL GASCOIGNE'S future, with club and country, was the focus of renewed speculation last night when his first sending-off in Italian football saw him summoned to appear before a disciplinary commission in Milan on Wednesday.

Graham Taylor, the England manager, was among the VIPs in the Luigi Ferraris Stadium where Gascoigne was dismissed 20 minutes from the end of Lazio's 3-2 win away to Genoa. He was banished for fouling, then confronting, Mario Bortolazzi in an angry, finger-wagging exchange.

The incident came on a day when dressing-room resentment over his star treatment surfaced again, with newspapers in Rome reporting that Lazio's German internationals, Thomas Doll and Karl-Heinz Riedle, had made a formal complaint, alleging favouritism.

Dino Zoff, the Lazio coach, shrugged off his record signing's latest indiscretion as 'just one of those things', saying: 'He didn't kick the player. There was a bit of elbowing and Gascoigne pulled him over.'

The Italian Federation was unimpressed, and immediately ordered the errant Englishman to appear before a disciplinary panel when his two bookings earlier in the season will be taken into account.

Informed sources suggested last night that the likeliest outcome is a two-week suspension, which would exasperate Lazio's indulgent owner, Sergio Cragnotti, as well as further dismaying Taylor.

A one-match ban, which is the statutory minimum, will keep Gascoigne out of next Sunday's game against Parma. Two would compel him to miss the visit of Milan, the champions and Serie A leaders, on 14 March.

Cragnotti is tiring of making allowances for the behaviour of an expensive acquisition who is regarded locally as a disappointment, on and off the field. The Italians would be prepared to forgive the bad manners which saw Gascoigne fined for deliberately belching on television if only he was making the impact expected of a pounds 5.5m footballer.

Instead, Lazio's scepticism about his fitness is such that he has been substituted regularly since Christmas, when he was deemed to have been overweight on returning from a mid-season break at his Hertfordshire home.

Taylor was so concerned about Gascoigne's condition - mental as well as physical - that he considered withdrawing him midway through England's 6-0 victory over San Marino 12 days ago. The manager opted not to do so because he feared it would 'destroy him', but he warned after the game that 'something was not right' with his most accomplished player, and that continued selection depended on a substantial improvement.

Gascoigne was 'unhappy', he said, and his unhappiness in Italy was affecting his form and brittle morale. 'It doesn't matter how gifted you are. Unless there is a level of fitness, you can't sustain it.'

Taylor travelled to Genoa to check on his flawed genius in the run-up to the next World Cup tie, against Turkey on 31 March, and yesterday's events, plus the consequent suspension, could tip the balance against his retention.

Gascoigne, 25, was last sent off on New Year's Day 1991, for swearing at the referee during Tottenham's televised match against Manchester United. His latest dismissal came on a day when a Sunday newspaper quoted him, under the headline 'I'll be Good', as saying: 'I'm going to knuckle down and get back on good terms with everyone.'

Responding to the suggestion that Lazio had been discouraged from recruiting in England again, he said: 'I'm sure they'd like another 10 like me.'

Gascoigne's depleted team- mates fought back from 2-0 down to overcome Genoa with two goals from Riedle and a penalty by their leading scorer, Giuseppe Signori. Riedle's winner, four minutes from the end, moved them up to third in the table, behind Milan and Internazionale.

The game was interrupted for three minutes when the penalty provoked a pitch invasion by a dozen Genoa fans.

Tony Adams, Gascoigne's England team-mate, looks certain to escape disciplinary action from the Arsenal manager, George Graham, for the head injury which threatens his FA Cup quarter-final place against Ipswich next weekend. Adams, who needed 29 stitches above his left eye after an alleged nightclub fall on Friday, has little chance of playing against Chelsea tonight or at Norwich on Wednesday.

But Graham indicated after meeting his captain at training yesterday that the club will take no action. 'I'm just not discussing the matter, it was a private matter,' he said. 'He had an accident, end of story.' But he did confirm that Adams is 'unlikely' to play at Stamford Bridge, along with the injured Ian Wright and Anders Limpar. David Webb, the Chelsea manager, has recalled Dave Beasant in goal in place of Kevin Hitchcock.

(Photograph omitted)

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