Gascoigne pays tribute to Rangers
Tuesday 30 April 1996
It could prove to be a costly suspension for Rangers, who have relied heavily on the newly crowned Scottish Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year to clinch their eighth successive championship this season.
The matches on 7 and 21 August will decide whether Rangers enter the Champions' League elite again or are forced to compete in the Uefa Cup as a consolation prize.
Gascoigne claimed the headlines following his stunning hat-trick on Sunday in a 3-1 win over Aberdeen which ensured Walter Smith's side finally shook off the persistent challenge of Celtic.
Typically, Smith played down his part in Gascoigne's rejuvenation since his arrival in Scotland from Rome, even though the player himself said: "Walter saved my footballing life".
Smith insisted: "I don't really think I have succeeded where other managers failed. It was injury which kept Paul out of Lazio's team. We have just given him a certain stage on which he could flourish. We like to think we have a good environment at Ibrox where people can enjoy coming to work.
"Once we got him here, it was down to him. He gives me some of the credit, but it is all his. He has shown everyone in Scotland that he is a really good player."
Gascoigne yesterday revealed that how being dropped by Smith kick-started his Rangers career. "Not many people know this, but Walter left me out of a game about four and a half months ago," he admitted.
"People won't know which game it was because I missed a few around that time. Walter just said I was injured, but in fact I was dropped.
"It gave me a kick up the backside which I needed, and winning the championship and Player of the Year from my fellow pros is a great feeling.
"Walter Smith saved my life and that is a thank-you to him," said Gascoigne, who arrived at Ibrox from Lazio for a club-record fee of pounds 4.3m last summer.
"I've had 14 operations and to everyone at Rangers like Archie Knox, Walter and all the staff - you saved my life.
"I had three and a half years of injuries, I've had broken legs, kneecaps, cheekbones, the lot. Now I am just so happy to be playing again and yesterday was something special. I look forward to coming into Ibrox every day and this put the icing on the cake."
Meanwhile, the Rangers chairman, David Murray, has told the club's supporters there will be no flagging in his stewardship of the Scottish champions.
"We never stand still at Rangers," he insisted. "I'm very pleased for our supporters. Sunday was a great day for everyone at the club.
"When you are No 1, you can only go one way, but we have stayed at No 1, which is very satisfying. We've heard a lot about the challenge from Celtic this season, but the fact is that we are champions again."
Murray set his club an immediate Double target with the Tennents Scottish Cup final against Hearts on 18 May looming. "We have got to go and win the cup now and let's not look beyond that," he added. "We've had a very successful season.
"Every team tries to beat Rangers, but we have proven yet again that we are the best and we intend to stay there."
The Ibrox chairman also paid tribute to Gascoigne, who could yet add the Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year award to the one voted by his fellow professionals.
"In life you only get what you pay for. We paid a lot of money for Paul and we got the best. He has shown what a world-quality player he is."
Thousands of Dutch fans flocked to Amsterdam's city centre on Sunday in tribute to Ajax, the newly crowned league champions.
Ajax enjoyed a 5-1 victory against Willem II Tilburg before a 19,000 capacity crowd, winning the Dutch championship for the third time in a row and the 26th time in total.
The title win could be the crowning glory for striker Edgar Davids and defender Michael Reiziger, who are both set to join the Italian champions, Milan, on four-year contracts, according to the Dutch foot- ballers' association.
Later, Danny Blind, the Ajax captain, proudly showed the silver championship trophy to the assembled supporters.
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