Paul Gascoigne – Tottenham Hotspur Legend (7)


Paul Gascoigne Celebrates at Wembley

Paul Gascoigne’s time with Spurs was unfortunately too brief but he was an immense talent who brought exuberance and an amazing talent to the football field and is regarded as a true Tottenham ‘Legend’ at White Hart Lane. He joined Spurs from Newcastle in July, 1988 for a then record fee of £2 million, turning his back on Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Under Terry Venables, he blossomed into the best footballer in England and a regular England international. He helped Spurs finish third in the League in 1989-90 and at that summer’s World Cup in Italy, the whole world became aware of his precocious talent as England reached the semi-finals.

Sir Alex Ferguson on missing out on Gascoigne, writing in his book ‘Managing My Life’ comments,

"“I was determined to bring Paul to United ever since he had tortured us with a devastating performance for Newcastle……….The fact that he never wore the red shirt was his mistake, not far as i was concerned, I had a solid promise that he would sign for me and I think that his change of mind hurt both of us.”"

Following England’s World Cup exploits in the 1990 World Cup, English football was revitalised  and Tottenham had two of the star players in their ranks, Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker. There was, however, only one name on everyone’s lips, ‘Gazza’ and every ground was packed to see him display his wonderful footballing skills. Not put off by the publicity Gascoigne raised his game and in the second half of the season, almost single-handedly took Spurs to the FA Cup Final at Wembley. That season he scored 19 League and Cup goals. He scored seven in the League including an amazing hat-trick against Derby County with Peter Shilton in goal and six in both Cup competitions.

Spurs’ financial standing was in a critical position and there was much doom and gloom surrounding the club as the banks threatened to call in their debts and put Tottenham Hotspur out of existence. Against this background of potential extinction, Terry Venables managed to plot the club’s path to Wembley success with Paul Gascoigne as his leading man who delivered throughout the Cup run with outstanding performances and goals to match against Portsmouth, Oxford United and Notts County, scoring five goals, to reach a semi-final at Wembley against north-London neighbours, Arsenal.

Gascoigne’s 1991 FA Cup Contribution

4th Round: Paul Gascoigne’s scored two goals and created the others to ensure Tottenham’s victory over Oxford United at White Hart Lane – the start of his contribution in the FA Cup winning season.

5th Round: A difficult match for Spurs at 2nd Division Portsmouth.  Tottenham lost experienced full back Terry Fenwick prior to the game, having broken his ankle in the pre-match warm up. It was Gascoigne again who provided the goals in a class performance from the country’s most exciting player who was struggling with injury but kept producing excellent performances.

6th Round: A semi-final place was achieved through goals from Nayim and Gazza – his fifth in the competition but he had been playing with an injury and required surgery so Tottenham’s worry, along with their worsening financial situation, was whether he would be fit to play in the semi-final against Arsenal.

The operation was arranged for immediately after the 6th Round tie, in the hope that he would be fit for the semi-final. Gascoigne recovered in time and took his place in the team at Wembley. He was pumped up for that match against opponents who were looking to win the League and Cup ‘double’.

Gascoigne Scores at Wembley against Arsenal

Semi-Final: It was the first FA Cup semi-final to be played at Wembley and Tottenham were buoyed by the availability of Gascoigne. From the off, Gascoigne ran the game and Spurs took Arsenal by surprise with their play and went ahead after five minutes with a thunderous free-kick from thirty five yards by Gascoigne.

Barry Davies commentary sums up that moment perfectly,

"“He’s not going to have a go from there…. he is you know…. that is Schoolboy’s Own stuff!”"

Tottenham continued to dominate and increased their advantage five minutes later when Paul Allen crossed from the right for Gary Lineker to score.  Gradually Arsenal came into the game and managed to score with a header on the half-time whistle.  In the second half with ten minutes remaining Lineker scored his second, breaking from half-way and shooting from the edge of the box.

For an hour Gascoigne was everywhere and involved in everything that was good for Spurs. He left to a rapturous reception when he was substituted having run himself out after an hour, having been the catalyst for the success.  Spurs were going to Wembley but would the football club survive their financial problems?

Final: In the build up to the Final, Gascoigne became part of the financial solution to rescue Spurs. A transfer was agreed for him to join Lazio in Italy for £8.5million. In the Final against Nottingham Forest, Tottenham were again relying on the inspiration of Gazza to bring them their eighth FA Cup success and he was pumped up for the game – in the opening minutes his boundless energy took him everywhere.  However, unfortunately that was soon to become a problem for Spurs and the player. Early on he made a rash tackle that could have seen him booked and that might have calmed him down.  The referee showed leniency and Gazza carried on, unrestrained, making another bad tackle on the Forest fullback, injuring himself as well. From the resulting free-kick Pearce scored but Spurs were doubly penalised when Gascoigne fell to the ground, his injury worse than realised. He was carried off on a stretcher and went to hospital with a cruciate ligament injury which would sideline him for a year and jeapordize the deal that was to save the club. A goal down Spurs re-organised, re-grouped and defeated Forest 2 -1 in extra time.

Gascoigne Joins Lazio in 1992

It was a very difficult time for Paul Gascoigne and he was out of football for a year but the deal with Lazio was re-negotiated and in July, 1992 he signed for £5.5 million which helped to preserve the club’s future under the Chairmanship of Alan Sugar, with Terry Venables as Chief Executive. He had made 92 League appearances for Tottenham and scored 19 goals. While he recovered from his injury and went on to play for a number of different clubs he never again reached the level of performance he showed with Spurs in those first three seasons.

Gascoigne has known troubled times throughout his life and football was his life. His life has been blighted with many personal and tragic problems but he is held close to the hearts of every Spurs fan and it is to be hoped that with the help and support of others he will now find a real purpose in his life away from football and avoid the pitfalls that have so hindered him in the past.

What is your favourite Gascoigne memory?

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