Goodison awaits Gascoigne's next act

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Exactly 10 years after Terry Wogan introduced him as "literally the most famous and popular person in Britain today", Paul Gascoigne drew barely 50 fans to Goodison Park yesterday when he arrived to complete a free-transfer move from Middlesbrough to Everton which he readily conceded was "a gamble" for his new club.

Exactly 10 years after Terry Wogan introduced him as "literally the most famous and popular person in Britain today", Paul Gascoigne drew barely 50 fans to Goodison Park yesterday when he arrived to complete a free-transfer move from Middlesbrough to Everton which he readily conceded was "a gamble" for his new club.

Gazzamania is not what it was in the balmy, barmy days of Italia 90, when England took his brilliance and blubbing to its heart. Yet the Everton deputy chairman and owner, Bill Kenwright, believes that if anyone can coax the best from the 33-year-old man-child it is his managerial team of Walter Smith and Archie Knox, who worked with Gascoigne at Rangers.

After welcoming his new "headline act", Kenwright, the London theatre impresario, admitted that Gascoigne's contract stipulated that the club could cancel the two-year deal in the event of serious indiscipline. But he anticipated that the player's "extraordinarily close relationship" with Smith would inspire him to the form he showed before the lovable rogue gave way to the wife-beating, hard-boozing bully.

"We were discussing flair players and the words 'Paul Gascoigne' came from Walter's mouth," Kenwright said. "He often asks me what Evertonians might think of something and right now, on Gazza, I'd have to say that the jury is out. They'll be thinking: 'Can he?' Please God he can."

Kenwright and Smith met Gascoigne on Saturday before the Everton squad left for their training camp in Tuscany. "I wanted to explain to him the passion I feel for Everton and what Evertonians are looking for," Kenwright said. "The great Gazza could supply that. The other Gazza could break their hearts. I just wanted him to know he has got to be the man.

"I've looked on in bewilderment at the grace and the goals. Other times I've wondered what he was doing. There were times when he should have been running back but didn't look capable. But it's like when I bought this club: people said I was mad, but I couldn't not do it. It was the same with Gazza."

A slimmer, grinning Gascoigne, who joked that he had left Teesside because it was "time to give Bryan Robson a breather", started only nine matches last season. He was dogged by injury and controversy, even managing to break his arm when elbowing an Aston Villa player. Volunteering the suggestion that "my brains are in my feet", he went on to tell the media: "It's a big gamble for Walter Smith and I'm determined not to let him down."

Asked whether he felt the move to Merseyside represented a last chance, Gascoigne, who has taken a drop in salary, replied: "You can't say that because there were seven or eight clubs in for me. Everton was the biggest, the one I fancied most, and not just because of Walter but because of the fanatical support and the derby matches."

Gascoigne, a connoisseur of such conflicts from his spells with Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers, almost joined Liverpool 12 years ago. Despite the fact that Kenwright gave him a book about the rivalry between the red and the blue to peruse, Gascoigne was clearly labouring under the misapprehension that Anfield was "across the water" (he may have meant the pond in Stanley Park).

First, there is pre-season conditioning, beginning in Italy today and continuing with a possible debut at Dundee United next Tuesday. "I just need to stay fit," Gascoigne said. "I love football so much that if I get injured, I get bored and pissed off and I go to pieces."

Everton should make another acquisition today when they sign Niclas Alexandersson, Sheffield Wednesday's Swedish midfielder who turned down Bradford yesterday. They have also made an enquiry forCoventry's Noel Whelan.

Comments