James Lawton: Gascoigne enjoys renaissance in Florence

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Paul Gascoigne, who has just celebrated his 37th birthday, has had a belated Italian triumph. He charmed a 40,000 crowd in Florence at the weekend with a beautiful performance, full of graceful thinking and brilliant technical control.

Paul Gascoigne, who has just celebrated his 37th birthday, has had a belated Italian triumph. He charmed a 40,000 crowd in Florence at the weekend with a beautiful performance, full of graceful thinking and brilliant technical control.

True, some of his opponents, Italian singers, were not guaranteed to give him the hardest game of his life and some of his team-mates, like Rod Stewart and Mick Hucknall, for all their enthusiasm, were bound to put Gazza - and Paolo Di Canio and Ian Rush - in the best possible light in a pulsating 6-6 draw.

However, Gascoigne's insistence that he can still earn a living on the field has been given some support from an old pro still revered in the Italian game for his ferocious spirit and dedication. Joe Jordan, who played for Milan and Verona after his cult-inspiring stints at Leeds and Manchester United, coached the British team and had encouraging words for any prospective employer of Gascoigne. "I can only say that the lad showed a tremendous attitude," said Jordan.

"Given the make-up of my team, I didn't really see the point in imposing a curfew," added Jordan, "but I can report that Gazza was the first to bed and well before midnight. He was in excellent shape and told me that he is working on weights to build up some strength after losing a lot of weight."

This promising report was perhaps not entirely on the cards when Gascoigne arrived in Florence in the company of the broadcaster Chris Evans, one of the player's "refuelling" partners when his England career imploded under Glenn Hoddle shortly before the 1998 World Cup. Evans' physical renaissance has not been quite as striking as his friend's. Jordan gave him five minutes' playing time.

Playing the advocate

Perhaps Jose Mourinho was right after all to take the Chelsea money. Certainly it's hard to imagine his admiration for the working style of Liverpool would have survived the astonishing admission by the Anfield chief executive, Rick Parry, that his players Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen will be consulted before the appointment of a new man. What next? Logically, they get to write their own contracts.

Comments