Paul John Gascoigne was born on the 27th of May 1967 In Dunston, in the Western part of Gateshead in the North East of England.
Life was tough for the Gascoignes, initially after Paul’s birth, they lived in a single room upstairs in a council house with a shared bathroom.
Stability was missing in Gascoigne’s early years, his family moved around a lot, and his father became ill, suffering from seizures.
Aged 10, a tragedy occurred that Gascoigne never fully recovered from.
Steven Spraggon was the younger brother of a friend who was in Pauls care when he was tragically killed in a car accident. Nobody blamed Gascoigne, but crucially Paul blamed himself.
Gazza began developing switches which were treated unsuccessfully by healthcare professionals. Gascoigne’s father expressed doubt over the methods of the treatment, so the treatment was stopped.
Soon after, Gazza developed an addiction to gaming machines, to fuel his addiction Paul would often steal from local shops.
Further tragedy struck when Pauls friend, a promising local footballer, was killed on a building site run by Gazzas uncle. Paul again felt responsible due to the fact it was he who had secured the job for his mate.
Through all this uncertainty, through all the tragedy, death and hardship, through the tears and adversity, one thing kept a young Paul Gascoigne dreaming of better days, football.
Gazza by his own admission didn’t think about death or twitching when he was playing football. On his 16th birthday, Paul signed for Newcastle United.
After success in the youth team, manager Jack Charlton gave an excited Gazza his debut in a 1-0 win over Q.P.R.
Willie McFaul took over as manager for the 1985–86 season, and named Gascoigne in his first eleven from the opening game of the campaign, he took the place of Chris Waddle, who had been sold to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. He scored his first goal at home to Oxford United in a 3–0 victory on 21 September 1985, and claimed a further eight goals in the 1985–86 campaign. Newcastle finished 11th in the First Division that season and, at the end of it, Gascoigne was featured on the front cover of the Rothmans Football Yearbook.
From day one as a footballer, Gazza looked out of place, he played the game with a smile on his face and with a freedom that astounded opponents at times. Gazza was the annoying kid at school that was better than everyone else. He wanted the ball constantly, and when he did get it, he kept it, often turning players inside out, comically so at times.
He scored five goals in 24 league games in the 1986–87 season, as the “Magpies” slipped to 17th place, just three points above the relegation play-offs.
In a 0–0 draw with Wimbledon at Plough Lane hard-man Vinnie Jones singled him out for attention, and in an incident that would become a much-publicised photograph, Jones grabbed him by the genitals as Gascoigne screamed in agony. Gascoigne subsequently sent Jones a red rose, and the two became good friends.
He was named as the PFA Young Player of the Year and listed on the PFA Team of the Year in the 1987–88 season and was the subject of offers from both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
His first choice was Liverpool, but with no offer forthcoming, Gascoigne promised Alex Ferguson that he would sign for Manchester United.
Tottenham and England
In his first season at White Hart Lane Gascoigne helped Terry Venables’s Spurs to sixth in the First Division, scoring seven goals in 37 appearances. They rose to third place in 1989–90, but were still 16 points behind champions Liverpool.
In the summer of 1990 Gazza was named in the England World Cup Squad. His life was never quite the same.
Gascoigne managed to transfer his playing style onto the biggest stage of all. He played in all three of the group games in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and England topped Group F, Gascoigne providing the assist for Mark Wright’s winner against Egypt.
In the first knockout game against Belgium, he made another assist after chipping a free-kick into the penalty area, where David Platt volleyed the ball into the net. Gascoigne was at the centre of the action again in the quarter-final clash with Cameroon when he gave away a penalty, which Cameroon converted. In extra-time, he made a successful through-ball pass from which Gary Lineker won, and subsequently scored a penalty, which proved to be the winning goal.
England were in the World Cup semi-finals for the first time ever away from home soil. Paul Gascoigne was instrumental in getting them there, a star was born, “Gazza” was born.
On 4 July 1990, England played West Germany in a World Cup semi-final match at Juventus’s Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin. Gascoigne, having already received a yellow card during England’s 1–0 victory over Belgium in the second round, was booked for a foul on Thomas Berthold, which meant that he would be suspended for the final if England won the match. Television cameras showed that he had tears in his eyes following the yellow card which made Gascoigne a highly popular figure with the sympathetic British public.
The match culminated in a penalty shoot-out, which the Germans won after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed their penalties.
Paul Gascoigne went from being a promising footballer to Englands most famous sporting hero in 120 almost glorious minutes.
He was named as BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990, and on accepting the award said that “I haven’t won anything in the game as yet. But the World Cup did help to put England on the map”. He was also named as Tottenham Hotspur’s Player of the Year.
Gascoigne was named on the PFA Team of the Year in the 1990–91 season as Tottenham reached the FA Cup Final, with victories over Blackpool, Oxford United, Portsmouth, Notts County and North London derby rivals Arsenal. He scored the opening goal of the 3–1 victory over Arsenal at Wembley with a free-kick, one of six goals he scored in the competition.
Going into the final against Nottingham Forest he had already agreed on terms to join Italian club Lazio in an £8.5 million deal. However just 15 minutes into the game he committed a dangerous knee-high foul on Gary Charles and ruptured his own cruciate ligaments in his right knee. England teammate Stuart Pearce scored from the resultant free kick, and Gascoigne subsequently collapsed after the kick-off, forcing him to leave the match on a stretcher. Tottenham went on to win the Cup in extra-time later presenting the Cup to Gazza in his hospital bed
He missed the entire 1991–92 season while he recovered, suffering a further knee injury in late 1991 when an incident at a nightclub on Tyneside kept him out for even longer.
The saga over Gascoigne’s proposed transfer to Lazio dominated the tabloid press throughout 1991, often overshadowing the key national news of that time – namely the recession and rise in unemployment that it sparked.
The media were now hounding Gazza to the point where he couldn’t wait to leave England.