Gascoigne the heeler for Everton

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The Independent Online

The talent may have dissipated over the years, but Paul Gascoigne still clings to the ability to write the most extraordinary scripts. On his first competitive return to his Geordie homeland in more than a decade, he produced a prodigious amount of running and, just when his legs appeared to be faltering, he attempted his first moment of extravagance: a deft back-heel which started the move that ended with the game's only goal.

The talent may have dissipated over the years, but Paul Gascoigne still clings to the ability to write the most extraordinary scripts. On his first competitive return to his Geordie homeland in more than a decade, he produced a prodigious amount of running and, just when his legs appeared to be faltering, he attempted his first moment of extravagance: a deft back-heel which started the move that ended with the game's only goal.

With Everton searching for their first win in five games, manager Walter Smith gave Abel Xavier - hair and beard shockingly blond for the occasion - his first start of the season in defence. Up front, the £700,000 Israeli Idam Tal made his debut, replacing Mark Hughes. This meant room on the field for Gascoigne. Twelve years ago he madehis debut for Spurs at St James' Park following his £2m transfer from Newcastle, and the tubby fellow was greeted then with a confetti of confectionery. He withstood that Mars Bar barrage to impress the England manager, and 11 days later made his international debut.

The England manager was Bobby Robson, and the pair's embrace before kick-off was as warm as Gascoigne's reception. However, in the match programme Robson dismissed speculation that he might beek Kevin Keegan's permanent successor as "hypothetical hullabaloo".

Robson made one change to the team who had romped the Tyne-Tees derby on Monday, Warren Barton's return signalling the end of Laurent Charvet's time on Tyneside. A £2m move to Manchester City now looks inevitable. Barton, though, lasted just 23 minutes and was replaced by Kevin Gallacher as Nolberto Solano dropped to right-back.

Gallacher had missed very little sitting out the scrappy opening. Gascoigne had buzzed menacingly in midfield and powered fitfully forward, but despite Newcastle's refusal to restrain runners, Shay Given in the home side's goal was not extended until Alex Nyarko's blistering 28th- minute shot.

In reply, Newcastle's free- running trio of Daniel Cordone, Kieron Dyer and Alan Shearer looked fluid and exciting. They would have been dangerous, too, if one of them had managed to conjure a semi-decent ball into the box. Gallacher made a little difference, bursting on to Shearer's pass down the right in the 36th minute. The substitute's cross picked out Dyer who, at full pelt, headed over.

Of all the rockets delivered in the dressing room, the hottest must have been received by Dyer, for he scorched into life in the 52nd minute, skinning David Weir. His cross skimmed over Xavier's hair, which defeated Shearer, and Cordone blasted the loose ball high. Eight minutes later, Shearer shot hard and low towards the bottom corner, but Paul Gerrard responded superbly to keep it out.

On the hour, Robson introduced Lomana Lua Lua for his second home appearance, and Smith responded by sending on two defenders: David Unsworth and Gary Naysmith for his debut. Yet Everton then created their best chance as Kevin Campbell narrowly failed to convert a low cross by Steve Watson.

Nine minutes later, Campbell found the net from similar proximity. Gascoigne started the move deep in his own half with a delicate back-heel to Nyarko, who moved the ball on to Naysmith, running hard down the left. The low cross enabled Campbell to score his first League goal of the season. While he celebrated behind the net, back in the centre circle Gascoigne gleefully replayed his role in the goal for all to see.

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