Football: Waddle supports Gazza

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CHRIS WADDLE yesterday added his voice to the argument in favour of Paul Gascoigne going to France this summer.

"If he stays fit I think he is still our best creative player," Waddle said. "The main thing is that we don't have anybody who can control the game pace-wise. He can make the game go slow or quick.

"When he is not playing I think we look one-paced. We've got a lot of talent, but the man who dictates the play is hard to find. It's an art in itself. It might look like he has got time but that's the sign of a great player. He is definitely our best player for doing that. He is at his best when he is let off the leash and has no worries."

Glenn Hoddle has issued a final warning to Gascoigne over his drinking and dietary habits, but Waddle claims the England coach is fully aware of Gascoigne's importance.

"Glenn knows that Paul can dictate a game of football for him," Waddle said. "These players are hard to find. Glenn knows he's just coming up to 31 and this may be his last World Cup. He is still in his prime and is still in good condition. People will say he's had his best days but time will tell on that.

"I still think he is very capable of doing very well in France and Glenn knows that as well. He has obviously got to put laws down and make the lad think.

"He is putting statements and advice out to Gazza to make sure he goes to France giving himself the best possible chance of being as he fit as he can be and hopefully being one of the best players in the World Cup.

"I would never back against Paul Gascoigne being the star of the tournament. He can't win it on his own. So let's hope everybody gets off his back and I'm sure we'll get the best out of Gazza in France."

Waddle also defended Gascoigne over criticism of his lifestyle. "What people don't realise is that he's a fit guy naturally. He might look like he has put a little weight on but he gets rid of it. He watches what he eats - he's not a big eater.

"OK, he had a few beers last week but nothing that anybody hasn't had in the past. He works hard. I was with him for a couple of days last week and he was looking after himself. He wouldn't eat this and wouldn't eat that. But he had a kebab and everybody said what sort of preparation is this? It was quite far-fetched. If it was another player it wouldn't be a problem.

"You're not telling me the Arsenal players didn't have a drink after the Cup final. All players go out and have a drink when they're on holiday. They've finished the season and it's been hard for many of them. But it's not about the week they get off, it's about now and onwards. I'm sure Gazza will be working very hard for the tournament."