Gascoigne on song but still plays the fool

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The Independent Online

Rangers 2 Sampdoria 0

Glasgow might not yet belong to him in its entirety, but Paul Gascoigne already has a considerable stake in the small businesses along Paisley Road West.

Hairdressers on the main road leading to Ibrox are offering a Gazza cut and bleach for pounds 11. There is one that dangles a free half pint of lager or heavy in the bar next door as an extra inducement.

His is the name and face that is launching a thousand snips among the tonsorially impressionable, but no one is yet offering free flute lessons with a Gazza crop, which is probably just as well.

The impact of Gascoigne's first two competitive appearances for Rangers was overshadowed this weekend by pictures of him playing the Orangeman with an imaginary flute during Saturday's win over Steaua Bucharest.

It looked innocuous enough at the time and it may be that Gazza thinks that Orangemen are something to do with Tango, but frozen in full leering colour in the next day's papers it came over as badly off key.

It is not unknown for Rangers' incoming Englishmen to try to stake some claim for tribal affiliation, but Gascoigne showed on Saturday that he retains his unique genius for the wildly ill-judged, over-the-top gesture.

Without that essential daftness, there would be no Gazza. Buying him and discovering that he had suddenly turned sensible and stolid would be one of the crueller tricks that the transfer market could play on a club. Without the belching, the blubbing and the schoolboy posturing there would be no instinctive brilliance, either.

There was enough of that brilliance on display over the two games to suggest that he can, provided he avoids inciting sectarian riots, be an immensely valuable play for Rangers.

In the final of an International Tournament which, despite his presence, failed to convince most Rangers fans that it was much more than a weekend of pre-season friendlies, Gascoigne built on the good impression he had, flute playing aside, created against Steaua.

As in that first game, there was one classic example of his ability to attack the penalty area, which brought rapturous applause if no goal.

Sampdoria, victors the previous day over an injury-hit Spurs, who lost their second match of the weekend 3-2 to Steaua earlier yesterday, also kept Andy Goram busy.

The goal that put Rangers ahead came from an excellent long pass from another of their newcomers, Gordan Petric, crossed in by Trevor Steven and tucked away by Gordon Durie.

Until he left the field to more rapturous applause 10 minutes before Ally McCoist's second, having added 70 minutes to his 71 on Saturday, all eyes were on Gascoigne.

''I've been told the crowd gets three times as big,'' he said afterwards. ''That will just be frightening. It's nice that they've taken to us so quickly and that I've been accepted very very quickly by the other players.''

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; McLaren, Gough, Petric (Moore, 70); Steven, McCall, Gascoigne (Mikhailichenko, 70), Durrant, Cleland; Durie, Laudrup (McCoist, h-t).

Sampdoria (4-4-2): Zenga; Balleri, Mannini, Franceschetti, Rossi (Bellucci, 55); Karembeu, Seedorf (Evani, 76), Mancini, Mihajlovic; Chiesa, Maniero (Invernizzi, 76).

Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton).