Gascoigne stays in the shadows

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The Independent Online

Paul Gascoigne's 20-minute cameo in Rangers' 6-0 demolition of Raith Rovers on Tuesday night is unlikely to earn him a more prominent role for England when they face Georgia at Wembley in two weeks' time.

Unless the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, is prepared to gamble on the 29-year-old's fitness, Gascoigne will have to wait for the 31 May trip to Poland for a possible England return.

The Rangers midfielder's comeback at Stark's Park was his first competitive game since 25 January and coincided with a victory that virtually ensures a ninth successive title for Walter Smith's side.

However, Dundee United's Scottish Cup commitment has denied Gascoigne the chance of a full game next week to try to show Hoddle he could have been ready for the World Cup qualifier on 30 April.

Rangers were scheduled to visit United next Wednesday but the match is postponed, with Dundee United meeting Kilmarnock in a Scottish Cup semi- final replay.

With no Rangers game until 5 May, against Motherwell, Gascoigne will have no time to regain match fitness following an ankle injury.

"I gave him a taste of playing again last night and he is easing his way back," Smith said. "He still has a lot of training to do but he should be fit and ready for the Motherwell game."

Gascoigne has missed 10 games for his club since injuring his ankle in a six-a-side tournament in Amsterdam at the end of January. He also sat out England's World Cup defeat by Italy and the Wembley friendly win over Mexico last month.

If, as expected, he misses out on the Georgia game, Gascoigne could play in the three final Premier Division matches for Rangers in May to prove his fitness for the trip to Poland.

Raith, meanwhile, who were relegated to the First Division of the Bell's Scottish League following Tuesday night's humbling, are believed to be the target of pounds 250,000 takeover by their former manager, Jimmy Nicholl.

Nicholl, who rejected an offer from the chairman, Alex Penman, on Monday to become caretaker manager for the rest of the season, is expected to return in the summer as manager of the club he led to the Coca-Cola Cup in 1994 and the Uefa Cup. "It is a bit early to say anything about this," Nicholl said yesterday.

Brian McClair admitted he was flattered at the crowd of almost 44,000 which turned up for his testimonial against Celtic at Old Trafford last night.

"I had a bet with Brian Kidd and it's cost me pounds 30," said McClair, who is celebrating his 11th season with United after joining from the Glasgow side in pounds 850,000 in 1987.

"He said there would be more than 30,000, I said it would be less than that and I was certain I was on a banker. But it has been a tremendous night and I am very flattered so many people travelled such a long way to be there. When over 40,000 people turn up for you, I am touched beyond words. I am delighted. It was very emotional.

"The manager capped the night when he told everyone that I am going to be there next season. I don't know in what role, though. Perhaps I'll get my chamois ready to wash all the cars!"

The crowd bettered previous testimonials against Celtic for Bryan Robson, Mark Hughes and Lou Macari, and McClair said that is why he had the wager with Kidd because he did not think he would get anywhere near the 40,000 mark.

"It was a great night but it was never going to be about money," McClair said. "We tried to keep down the price as low as we could so people could come. Hopefully they had satisfaction and value for money."