Wazza and Gazza: We all owe Paul Gascoigne because without him England wouldn’t have Wayne Rooney
Next Tuesday sees the tenth anniversary of Wayne Rooney’s full international debut.
Yet three months before he became the youngest player to represent England, cynics dismissed the prospect of such longevity.
The 16-year-old was labelled an uncouth yob for turning up at the BBC Young Sports Personality Of The Year Award with his tie undone and gum in his mouth, and a fear grew that, as sure as black-outs follow benders, the council estate “scally” would self-destruct, violently abusing his talent and burning himself out by his mid-20s.
As a Daily Mail article asked (with barely-disguised hope): “Is there some hidden vice, some secret in Rooney’s psyche which is yet to emerge? Drink, drugs, wife-beating?”
A hint as subtle as a cluster bomb, that here was the new Gazza.
To be fair, even his fellow England players nicknamed him Wazza.
But at 27 years and three months, Wazza has just picked up his 79th international cap and scored his 33rd goal, putting him on course to smash Peter Shilton’s appearance, and Bobby Charlton’s scoring, records.
If he achieves either, the alcoholic who was checking into an American clinic as Rooney was scoring against Brazil, deserves some credit.
Tears of a clown: Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne’s greatest contribution to English football was not his genius at Italia ’90, or that goal against Scotland, but showing the next generation of working-class kids that if they succumbed to fame and its hangers-on, and neglected their brains and bodies, they would quickly end up like him. A wreck.
The timing of Gazza’s blossoming as the most natural English talent since Stanley Matthews could not have been worse.
He was feted as a Jack The Lad national treasure just as football was becoming rich and sexy, and players’ private lives moved from back page to front.
This uncontrollable mixture of ball-stroking beauty and wild, binge-drinking excess was perfect fodder for us all. He set the template for bad-boy behaviour and took the hit for the generation of footballers that followed. He even had the first WAG.
Had he come along a decade before he would never have turned into a high-profile soap opera. He’d still be fighting demons today but he’d be far less damaged.
Had he emerged a decade later, when health-obsessed managers imposed strict regimes on young players, he may have broken the world transfer record more than once.
Paul Gascoigne: we all owe him
Instead he just broke himself. But in doing so he became a flashing danger light to those, like Rooney, who came from a poor background and were handed a golden ticket in life’s lottery.
Gazza was held up as the classic example of what not to do if you wanted to make the kind of money that would keep your extended family in luxury for life.
It meant that everyone (Gascoigne included) could say to Rooney from an early age, “Look at his mistakes. Look how a lad like you urinated a God-given talent against a wall, and ended up a sad, lonely joke. Look and learn.”
This week, many people have questioned the point of trying to help Gascoigne.
They say he’s beyond salvation because he lacks the will to help himself.
They say those rich mates and former colleagues were foolish to foot his rehab bill and the England squad were naive to offer financial help.
But they’re wrong.
Everyone connected with English football should never cease trying to help Paul Gascoigne.
Put simply, it owes him.
Not least because if it hadn’t been for Gazza, there may not have been a Wazza.
Not that kind of spitter?
Early bath: Goran Popov is shown a red card by referee Mark Clattenburg
Goran Popov has played only 10 games for West Brom but that’s enough to pick up the latest go-to excuse for Premier League miscreants.
After gobbing all over Kyle Walker last Sunday, the Macedonian says he’s going to ring the Spurs defender and tell him “I’m not that type of player.”
Good luck mate, but the chances are he’s heard it before.
Possibly at a PFA seminar on “The Best Lie To Use When Cameras Have Shown Exactly What Kind Of Player You Are.”
Will racists ruin Mario's Italian Job?
Mario Balotelli: happy in Italy... for now
This was what Mario Balotelli said when he left Inter Milan for Manchester in 2010:
“I had no real problems with my team-mates but outside influences persuaded me to go. The racism is something that has really bothered me.
“As far as I know, there is no racism in English football but there were two or three incidents in Italy that were quite bad. It was very unfortunate and I hope I don’t have them again.”
And here was what the brother of AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi told a right-wing political rally before going to watch Balotelli’s return to the city last weekend: “We are all off to see the family’s little n***er.”
Welcome home, amico.
At last week’s Milan press conference, Mario told them how happy he was to escape the English “media, weather and food.”
How soon before he tells another country how pleased he is to escape Italian “bigots, racists and fascists”?
Big Phil's even bigger regrets
Could have been a contender: Phil Scolari
Phil Scolari says that rejecting the chance to manage England “still hurts a lot.”
And who can blame him?
He must look at how Fabio Capello earned £25million for a four-year part-time job in which he achieved nothing, yet walked into an even more lucrative job in Russia, and view it as a bigger mistake than refusing to take over as Popeye Doyle from Gene Hackman in French Connection III.
Keeper attacks are a slippery slope
I’ve heard the odd buffoon defend that Gillingham fan’s attack on Wycombe’s Jordan Archer by arguing the keeper was wasting time and thus deserved it.
Which is a bit like saying a substituted player who walks slowly from the pitch deserves to be chased by a killer pit-bull to hurry him up. And if he gets caught, well tough.
The point of this cowardly assault is that it’s a copycat version of the attack on Chris Kirkland a few months back.
Which means we’ve got a trend here, and thus it won’t be long before a keeper is seriously hurt and there are calls in Parliament to bring fences back.
If these moronic, attention-seeking clowns don’t know where that leads to, then they need to find out.
Here’s a suggestion.
Instead of sending them to courts, make them stand outside their home ground for the rest of the season with a bill-board around their neck showing the buckled cages at Hillsborough in 1989.
With a slogan that says: “I want to put all you fans in these killer pens again.”
The reaction would certainly be what you call a “deterrent.”
Nigeria's success could be a major blow for Chelsea
Victor Moses: on your knees, boy...
It looks like more bad news for Rafa Benitez as Jessica Elvis, national secretary of the Association of Nigerian Prostitutes, has offered this incentive to the national team ahead of Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final: “We’ll give one week of free sex if the Super Eagles can win the trophy.”
So, victory will rule Victor Moses and Jon Obi Mikel out of Rafa’s thoughts for the FA Cup game with Brentford.
And even if they’re back for the Sparta Prague decider, they’ll be absolutely knackered.
Carra the colossus
As I wrote last week, Jamie Carragher has been immense since returning to Liverpool’s first-team.
Which is why his call to retire now, while still putting in man-of-the-match performances, is spot-on.
He deserves to be remembered as an Anfield colossus.
And he will be.
Why the transfer window was pane-ful
Robin van Pesie: The best deals were done last summer
John Peters / Getty
Final word on the just-closed January transfer window.
I doubt there has ever been a more irrelevant one at the top of the Premier League due to the fact that the title had already been won by the transfer dealings of the previous window.
And little could change it.
Manchester United signed Robin van Persie, which will win them the league.
Manchester City signed Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair, who won’t win them the league.
Arsenal refused to compete at the top end of the market and thus will struggle to end up in the top four, and Chelsea bought stars for a manager they were about to sack.
Hence the dampest of January squibs.
Michael Owen's not boxing clever
Many were left puzzled by Michael Owen throwing a limp punch at Mikel Arteta at the Emirates.
I know I was.
Because I read his famous summer 2009, 32-page, glossy self-promotion brochure “The Athlete, The Ambassador, The Icon” which told us that he was “fit, charismatic, successful, young, cool, sincere” but not one reference to how he was an “amateur boxer (failed)”.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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