The English midfield maverick grew up in Gateshead and it wasn’t long before his unique talents we’re spotted by his local team Newcastle United. Paul Gascoigne signed schoolboy terms with the team he supported as a boy in 1980 and by 1985 he was captaining the youth team to FA Youth Cup success which led to the energetic prankster getting his first professional contract aged 18. The following season, Gazza was starring in the first team which alerted several club scouts to the North East to watch the precocious young talent. During his time as a Magpie, Gazza made 92 appearances and scored 21 goals.
In 1988, Terry Venables beat Alex Ferguson to Paul’s signature and the Geordie was off to the bright lights of London to join Tottenham Hotspur in a British record £2.2m transfer. His impressive form continued at White Hart Lane and within just months of joining Spurs he was selected by England manager Bobby Robson to play for the Three Lions. The Italia 90 World Cup put Gazza’s talents on the international stage and his impact on the pitch helped England reach the semi finals and catapulted the 23 year old to stardom. The following season, Paul helped Tottenham Hotspur to win the FA Cup but a serious injury in the semi-final ruled Gazza out for the FA cup final and for the entire following season. Whist at Spurs, Gazza played 92 games and scored 17 goals.
The prolonged transfer saga to Serie A outfit Lazio came to an end in 1992 when Gascoigne finally moved to Rome in a £5.5m deal following his recovery from a career threatening knee injury. His three seasons in Italy we’re disrupted by injury and fitness issues but he still retained hero status with Lazio fans for his off the pitch antics and his 89th minute equaliser in the Rome derby. After just 43 appearances and 6 goals in three years in Serie A it was back to Britain for the talented midfielder.
Glasgow Rangers manager Walter Smith signed Gazza in 1995 in a £4.3m deal which turned out to be great business by the Scottish giants. He scored 19 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions, and was named both PFA Scotland Players’ Player of the Year and SFWA Footballer of the Year as the Gers claimed the League and Cup double. That summer, England hosted Euro 96 and Gazza helped the Three Lions reach the semi final with some impressive performances especially against Scotland in the group stages. The following season, Gazza helped Rangers to another title and the Scottish League Cup scoring 17 goals in 34 games. His final season at Ibrox was less successful and he would soon be heading south to join Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough in a £3.45m deal.
The last six years of Paul Gascoigne’s career was impacted by personal issues and fitness problems which limited his time on the pitch for Middlesbrough, Everton and Burnley alike. His final England appearance came in 1998 and he was controversially left out of the France 98 squad by Glenn Hoddle. He won 57 caps for England and scored 10 goals.
“In my commentating career Paul Gascoigne was the best English player I ever saw. The way he could go past people, his upper body strength, he had the lot. He could score goals, he could head goals, he could pick a pass like no other England player of his generation and very few since. He was just the complete footballer. And it was all natural. It wasn’t because of hours of coaching, he just had it.”
— Former BBC football commentator John Motson.