Paul Gascoigne hinted yesterday that he may be on the verge of retiring. At 34, Everton's former England midfielder believes the time may soon be right to call and end to his chequered 18-year career.
"I am looking at retirement," he said. "My dad's looking forward to my pension, because he wants a new car and a boat."
Gascoigne, who signed for Everton on a free transfer from Middlesbrough at the start of last season, suggested a younger player may well be able to offer the club better value for money. "I am 34, and the manager has brought in some midfield players. That is only right, because I am getting on a bit," he said. "This team needs to grow, and I am sure the money they are giving me every week could buy some talented young lad wanting to do well for the club.
"He could go in and take my wages. I do not mind that at all, because I love the club and I think they deserve more."
Gascoigne added he has already received alternative offers of employment abroad should he decide to play on. "I have had some good offers from abroad – really good ones," he said. "It all depends if I want to play in the sun again – whether it be America, Dubai or a couple of other places abroad."
Mark Fish is set to return to international football with a broadside for his South African team-mates. The Charlton centre-back has been in self-imposed exile since October 2000, when he fell out with his country's football authorities. But with the World Cup three months away, he is prepared to come out of retirement – which should mean a recall for the friendly with an as yet unnamed European opponent on 27 March.
Ahead of Charlton's game against Leeds this afternoon, Fish slated the attitude of his compatriots, claiming too many of them have been playing for themselves. Indifferent displays in the African Nations' Cup, where they lost to hosts Mali in the quarter-finals, led to calls for both the coach, Carlos Queiroz, and some of his players to be dispensed with.
"I would like to think the federation could help the coach and the coach could get help from some of the players that weren't at the African Nations' Cup to sort it out for the World Cup," Fish said. "But if you have players who aren't prepared to play for each other and for their country, it's going to be difficult and cause problems. Hopefully we can get that sorted out and then be better prepared for the World Cup."
England's women need to beat Portugal at Fratton Park this afternoon if they are to maintain a realistic chance of making the World Cup finals in China in 2003. Currently two points behind the second-placed Portuguese – who unexpectedly beat Holland in December – and with European champions Germany certain to win the group, the fight is on for the runners-up spot and a place in the play-offs.
England will be without their captain, Tara Proctor, who has a knee injury, and winger Sue Smith following the Tranmere Rovers player's training accident when she landed awkwardly and fell over, leaving her with a broken leg and dislocated ankle.
The squad shows three other changes from last November's 1-1 draw in Portugal, with striker Kelly Smith returning to the fold, as do Fulham colleagues Rachel McArthur and Mary Phillip who replace the Doncaster Belles pair Becky Easton and Gemma Hunt.
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