Paul Gascoigne has never been one for hiding his emotions. Not when a yellow card in the 1990 World Cup semi-final meant he’d miss the final should England defeat West Germany.
And not now when explaining his deep-rooted love of football to former international team-mate Jamie Redknapp. Just like at Italia ’90, the bottom lip quivers and the tears start to well.
In the second part of Sportsmail’s exclusive interview, Gazza explains what made him such a footballing maverick — and possibly the most mischievous and lovable player to grace the game. Kieran Gill listened in.
Sportsmail’s Jamie Redknapp caught up with Paul Gascoigne to talk about his iconic career
GASCOIGNE: My dad used to take me to Redheugh Boys’ Club at 7pm. He’d go to the pub then pick me back up at 9pm and we’d walk home. Every night, and I got my first-ever football off my dad when I was seven. I dribbled with it to school, dribbled it home, headed it, slept with it, all the time.
(Gascoigne wells up) All the time. Football, morning and night. My mam used to say, ‘Right, son, get to bed’. I’d go to bed but then I’d climb down the lamppost so I could play football in the street.
REDKNAPP: Your mum had no idea you were sneaking out and climbing lampposts and shuffling down drain pipes?
GASCOIGNE: Did she f***… until the pipe broke.
REDKNAPP: With you on it?
GASCOIGNE: Aye! Boomf. My mam wasn’t happy. She was like John Wayne with a slipper — she never missed!
REDKNAPP: Where do you get your talent from, Gaz?
GASCOIGNE: Johan Cruyff.
REDKNAPP: Funnily enough, I watched some highlights of you from Italia 90 and you even did a Cruyff turn against Holland, which must be pretty close to sacrilege! What about family-wise? Did your dad ever play?
GASCOIGNE: Nah. I just played all the time, on my own, football for ever.
Gascoigne was emotional as he recalled how he got into football and loved it as a youngster
REDKNAPP: So was yours a God-given talent or did you have to work hard for it?
GASCOIGNE: I just did it. I don’t know what it was. I actually used to watch myself back after matches and I’d think, ‘That’s not normal’.
REDKNAPP: When were you in your prime?
GASCOIGNE: After the 1990 World Cup, in the next season with Tottenham, I couldn’t do a thing wrong. Everything I did on the pitch was natural. When I was playing I knew I was three seconds ahead of everybody else.
REDKNAPP: What do you think it was like to coach you?
GASCOIGNE: To coach me? Nightmare. I didn’t need coaching. When I played, I didn’t like one player on me. Not one, because I could beat him. I liked two against me, because then I could beat two in one go.
I remember David Platt once coming off the bench against Holland and he went, ‘It’s your game, Gazza’. I’d just do it. I’d take the mickey out of them.
REDKNAPP: What’s it like when you’ve got a player like, say, Frank Rijkaard whose job it is to man-mark you for 90 minutes?
Gascoigne believes he was at the peak of his powers for Spurs after the 1990 World Cup
GASCOIGNE: I’d love it. I’d talk to them.
REDKNAPP: You talked to them? What did you used to say?
GASCOIGNE: Years ago, when I played against Roy Keane, they were saying he was the new kid on the block. In the tunnel, I went to Keane, ‘Welcome to your worst nightmare’. I talked to him for 90 minutes. I was saying, ‘I’m going out with ya wife’. He said, ‘I’m not married’. I said, ‘Aye, she’s there in the stands’. He’d look up and I’d just go off with the ball.
He went to the newspapers afterwards, ‘Thank God that game’s over, I’ve never been talked to so much in my life’. I’d talk and talk and talk. ‘How are you doing? Where you from? What you doing tonight? What you doing tomorrow?’
One guy came face to face for an argument, so I grabbed him and gave him the biggest kiss. That ruined the rest of his game. The fans were laughing at him.
REDKNAPP: So, is that why Vinnie Jones grabbed your you-know-whats?
GASCOIGNE: I didn’t even talk to him! I kept my mouth shut with him. I nearly lost my family allowance when he did that.
Gascoigne recalls taunting opponents who were man marking him, including Roy Keane (right)
Gascoigne was handed his Newcastle debut by Jack Charlton in April 1985, at the age of 17. His first goal came at home to Oxford in September, and the sound of St James’ Park’s Gallowgate End erupting as one of their own scored was music to Gazza’s ears.
GASCOIGNE: First I went to Ipswich on trial when I was 12, then Southampton at 14, then I went to Newcastle. All I ever wanted to do was score in the Gallowgate.
Once I did that I knew I was going to make it. I remember playing Liverpool, getting 10 out of 10. Manchester United, 10 out of 10. I went into the house and said, ‘Dad, when you gonna come watch me play?’ He went, ‘When you’ve made it. You haven’t made it yet, son’.
REDKNAPP: What did that make you feel like?
GASCOIGNE: It made me want to play better.
REDKNAPP: So you used it as motivation.
GASCOIGNE: I just knew. I knew I had it. I knew I was better than the rest. It didn’t bother me who I was up against. I played with a smile. I used to jump on the bus home with the Newcastle fans after games. I loved it.
REDKNAPP: If you were playing in the Premier League now, Gaz, what would it be like?
Gascoigne says that scoring in front of the Gallowgate for Newcastle was his boyhood dream
GASCOIGNE: I’d walk it. It would be a doddle. The pitches are unbelievable now and the players can’t even kick each other. Our pitches weren’t good and when I was getting kicked, it was a doddle for me anyway. I had so much confidence.
REDKNAPP: Sir Alex Ferguson was asked recently to name the one player he wishes he’d signed and managed. He said, ‘Paul Gascoigne. Without question’.
GASCOIGNE: That’s special. It took him six years to start talking to me again.
REDKNAPP: What happened exactly in 1988? You were leaving Newcastle. Manchester United thought they had you because they were willing to pay the £2.2million asking price, which was a British record fee, by the way. Then all of a sudden you’re on your way to Tottenham, hence why Sir Alex gave you the silent treatment.
GASCOIGNE: Liverpool were first into me. I said, ‘Dad, Liverpool!’ I spoke to Kenny Dalglish for half an hour. My dad asked what I thought. I said, ‘I didn’t understand a f***ing word he said (with that accent)’. So that deal was out of the window.
Then Ferguson called. I said, ‘Dad, Manchester United!’ I told Ferguson he could go on his holidays, then I’d sign for him.
REDKNAPP: So Sir Alex goes away thinking when he gets back from a few days in the sun, he’s got you.
Gascoigne vowed to sign for Manchester United in 1988 but eventually moved to Tottenham
The legendary United boss was furious after he was led to believe Gascoigne was a done deal
GASCOIGNE: But then Tottenham called. I said, ‘Dad, Tottenham!’ He said, ‘No, you’re signing for United’. Then Tottenham said they’d buy my mam and dad a house for £120,000. I went, ‘Hold on, Dad, Spurs say they’ll buy yous a house’. My dad went, ‘Well what the hell are you waiting for?’
My sister rang to say she wanted a sun bed as well, so the deal was done on the sun bed, I think.
REDKNAPP: It’s no wonder Sir Alex didn’t speak to you for six years.
GASCOIGNE: He was fuming. Then after six years, he went, ‘Gazza, here’s a present for you’, and he gave me a watch. I actually had the chance to sign for him again when I was at Lazio. I rang him up. I said, ‘I’ll sign for you’. He said, ‘If Eric Cantona goes, I’ll sign you’.
REDKNAPP: Cantona obviously stayed, so you never made it to Manchester. We’ve all got regrets. Do you think your life would have been different if you had signed for Sir Alex?
GASCOIGNE: Would he have changed me? Cantona two-footed a guy in the stands! I think I might have settled in fine at United.
Four years at Tottenham were followed by three years at Lazio. One classic Gazza story comes from a trip to Sampdoria.
He was sitting on one side of the aisle, and his manager, Dino Zoff, was on the other. The inside of the bus was plunged into darkness upon entering a lengthy tunnel. Once out in the light of day, Gazza was stark naked.
The squad fell into fits of laughter. Zoff wasn’t as impressed. There was never a dull day to be a team-mate — or manager — of this footballing genius.
GASCOIGNE: If I’d signed for Manchester United, I would have been there for 12 years. But at Tottenham, I got the chance to sign for Lazio in 1992 and I loved it. I remember watching the team train for the first time and I started crying.
Four years at Tottenham were followed by three years at Lazio after he left for Serie A
REDKNAPP: Was that because the training was so hard in Italy?
GASCOIGNE: Rock hard. I said, ‘Dad, I can’t train like that’. He said, ‘Well you’d better get used to it, because the suitcase is already unpacked at the villa’. All right, no problem!
REDKNAPP: Was your time in Italy when you were at your best behaved?
GASCOIGNE: Nah, I nearly got kicked out.
GASCOIGNE: For belching.
Gascoigne remembers crying while watching Lazio train because the sessions were so tough
REDKNAPP: I remember that now! You were asked how you felt about being dropped against Juventus so you let rip into the microphone. You really were a rascal. Were you afraid that you’d miss out on that move to Lazio after doing your knee in the 1991 FA Cup final?
That was going to be your last appearance for Tottenham before leaving for Italy. You were pumped up, and you tried to let Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles know you were in the game but only hurt yourself. Then you missed the 1991-92 season.
GASCOIGNE: Nah. I always knew I’d get fit again.
REDKNAPP: I think the newspapers were saying you’d get kicked to pieces in Italy. But you loved a tackle, too. I was on the receiving end of one.
GASCOIGNE: I remember! I was playing for Middlesbrough and you had the ball so I whacked you. You got up and said, ‘I love you, Gazza, what did you do that for?’ I was gutted! I went, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.
Redknapp and Gascoigne chat during their playing days together for the Three Lions
There is an obvious fragility to one of the greatest players to ever pull on the England shirt, but the warmth remains.
There are hugs and kisses on the cheek for everyone present as we prepare to leave after two hours of catching up.
Now 54 years old, Gascoigne is looking forward to more work. He’s just finished filming L’Isola dei Famosi — Italy’s version of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! He dislocated his shoulder during a challenge on that show but at least managed to use his sling to hide biscuits!
Gascoigne has not yet received an official invitation to watch England against Scotland at Wembley at Euro 2020. Really, few would be worthier of a ticket.
REDKNAPP: I can’t help wondering, Gaz, how much more help you would have received if you were playing in the modern game.
GASCOIGNE: I’ve never had a mental health problem. I’m an alcoholic. I’ve had an alcohol problem. But I had this operation so I can have a glass of wine or a pint of beer and that’s it. Nothing more than that.
I just want to stay well. I want to keep myself right. I read one footballer’s book recently who said the most dangerous thing he’d done was sneaking a chicken sandwich into his room. My room was like an off-licence.
Gascoigne’s famous dentist’s chair celebration against Scotland still lives long in the memory
REDKNAPP: When we used to turn up for England games, Gaz, we’d always have a few drinks. You’d ask for sleeping tablets, you’d be given them, and we’d all be laughing as you tried to withstand their impact.
At the time it was funny, but now it feels like negligence. You were our best player. We should have been protecting you.
GASCOIGNE: Nah. It’s all right. I’m all right.
REDKNAPP: You’re still as loved as ever, mate.
GASCOIGNE: I’m lucky. I just loved being a footballer. I knew what I could do with a ball. I knew I was going to do the business. Every week. Every week.