It was great to see the launch of the new movie, Gascoigne, last week. So much of the media focus over recent years has been on Paul’s personal issues and his long battle with alcoholism that many people have forgotten that ‘Gazza’ was undoubtedly the finest English footballer of his generation. Since 1996, England have only managed to reach the semi-finals of a major tournament on two occasions. Both in Italia ‘90 and in Euro ’96 it would be fair to say that the key to England’s success was the genius that is ‘Gazza’. In fact, during his England career of 57 caps, Paul only lost 4 matches that didn’t go to penalties!
The movie tells the story of a kid from Gateshead who simply had a special talent; a boy who experienced terrible trauma at a young age; a boy who found safety on a football pitch. Three expert opinions provided throughout come from Jose Mourinho, Gary Lineker and Wayne Rooney who all describe Gazza as the most gifted English footballer of all time. Fair to say that these three are fair judges!!
What was unusual about Paul during his playing career is the fact that he was universally loved. Club football takes such precedence nowadays that the national team plays second fiddle. Gazza was the last player who managed to bring together a nation; made the country proud; and created our current love affair with the game. Many forget, that in the late 80’s football was in the doldrums with problems of hooliganism, violence and a generally dirty image, coming under fire from both politicians and the media. In fact, I would challenge anyone to identify a more powerful moment in football than the events in Turin 25 years ago.
Watch the movie. Legends like this don’t come along too often. (look out for The Providence Projects in the credits!!)