Gravesen succumbs to rush of blue blood

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The football season in England has not started yet but one of its larger surprises may have happened already. Who would have thought that Walter Smith could have acquired Paul Gascoigne only to discover he may not be the most volatile element in the Everton dressing-room?

The football season in England has not started yet but one of its larger surprises may have happened already. Who would have thought that Walter Smith could have acquired Paul Gascoigne only to discover he may not be the most volatile element in the Everton dressing-room?

You do not get many sendings-off in pre-season friendlies but then you do not get many displays like that of Thomas Gravesen. Something went off in the mind of the £2.5m signing from Hamburg just after half-time and the consequences were spectacular, even if they were not edifying. To commit one bad lunge would have been bad enough but he committed four in the space of a minute, provoking a flare-up that included Nathan Blake swinging a punch at him.

Afterwards Smith said he would appeal against the dismissal on the grounds he had been more sinned against than sinning in the subsequent fracas, but, frankly, the referee should have booked him for the first crude challenge and shown him the red card by the third.

"I don't think the boy could complain that some of my players were upset with him," Graeme Souness, the Blackburn manager, said of Gravesen, and if anyone knows about crossing the line of legality with challenges it is him. "If he is going to play in the Premiership like that it'll be an interesting 12 months for him."

Indeed Everton, who could have bored for Britain on occasions last season, might make fascinating viewing as a whole over the next 10 months. Do not forget that Gravesen's new colleagues include Abel Xavier, who was the short fuse of a Portuguese explosion during Euro 2000, and Mark Hughes, who has been known to spark a row or two. Then there is always Gazza to spice up the sub-plot.

On Saturday the 33-year-old Gascoigne was at his best in terms of his behaviour if not his talent. On one occasion he was caught late by Jason McAteer, turned sharply towards his assailant and gently proffered his hand to help up the Blackburn midfielder. And if you were to judge him on his work-rate he was exemplary. He clearly wants to make his time at Goodison a success and if his pace has gone he can still see a pass that would elude lesser mortals.

Souness, for one, could trace reason for optimism. "There has never been any doubt about Paul's ability and if he can retain his fitness for the next 12 months he will be an influence for Everton without a doubt," he said. "Inevitably at his age he will miss some games and how he lives his life during this period willdetermine what happens. I hope for his sake it works out."

Souness also had reasons to be cheerful about his own team and particularly the form of Matt Jansen, who scored both Blackburn's goals - the first a glorious cross-shot from 25 yards - to keep them ahead of disappointing opponents who scored through Danny Cadamarteri, but rarely threatened otherwise.

"It was a good work-out," Souness said. "There were encouraging things and overall I'm pleased. You want the players to be pushed and they were." On this evidence a push for promotion is also within Blackburn's capabilities.

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