Gascoigne wins writers' award

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The Independent Online
If Paul Gascoigne wins the lottery this weekend, nobody will bat an eyelid. The Rangers midfielder was yesterday voted player of the season for 1995-96 by the Scottish Football Writers' Association, adding the title to the one awarded on Sunday night by the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association.

Gascoigne has scored 19 goals in his debut season at Rangers since his club record pounds 4.3m move from Lazio, and his hat-trick against Aberdeen on Sunday clinched an eighth successive title for the Ibrox club, and his first championship medal.

"It is special to be named player of the year by the football writers, some of whom have been my biggest critics since moving to Scotland," said Gascoigne, who will receive the award on 12 May.

"I know how prestigious the award is in England, although I never won it there. Added to winning the vote of my fellow professionals, this confirms I have proved to everyone how good a player I am. The writers see games week in week out, so it is great to get their vote."

Gascoigne edged the SFWA verdict just ahead of Pierre Van Hooijdonk, who has scored 32 goals for Celtic this season.

The Rangers midfielder succeeds team-mate Brian Laudrup by scooping both awards in Scotland and is the second Englishman named by the writers, following Mark Hateley's success in 1994.

Gascoigne now has the Scottish Cup final against Hearts on 18 May and the European Championships in June to further enhance his footballing rehabilitation since his return from a troubled spell in Italy.

"I'm looking forward to Hampden and the cup final, and then playing against Scotland at Wembley," he said. "It would be nice to beat Scotland but I don't want to give them a hiding. Remember, I've to come back and go into Ibrox every day."

Gascoigne picked out two highlights from his first season in Scotland - both from Old Firm confrontations - and promised to be better prepared for Rangers' next campaign.

"The high points were beating Celtic at Parkhead last September when I scored in our 2-0 win, and beating Celtic again in the cup semi-final last month," the former Tottenham and Newcastle midfielder said.

"But the absolute summit for me was last Sunday. To score a hat-trick in the game that wins you the league could only be topped if England won Euro 96 or the World Cup.

"I'm sure I can be even better next season as I will know what to expect every time I go out in terms of the size of grounds, the state of surfaces and crowd banter."

His week's winnings also include the goal of the season for his effort against Hibernian on 30 December and the Bell's player of the month award for April.