DANNY MURPHY: With a cheeky wink, Paul Gascogine left me starstruck… he helped the country fall back in love with football again
- Growing up, Paul Gascoigne was person any aspiring player wanted to emulate
- Everyone at home was in awe of Gascoigne during the 1990 World Cup in Italy
- Gazza left an outstanding legacy and helped the country fall in love with football
My first football idols were Liverpool stars Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes. But, as a midfielder, the player I used to really try to emulate was Paul Gascoigne.
As a 13-year-old glued to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, I loved him, like everyone else, for his talent and character.
For my Sunday League and district teams, I’d try to play like him — beat players, create goals, score goals. Play in a natural way.
As a 13-year-old glued to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, I loved Paul Gascoigne like everyone else
I tried to have my hair like him and even ordered a yellow Tottenham Hummel kit because of him. It must have been total admiration for a devoted Red to do that.
The following season after the World Cup he was arguably even better. I remember watching him turn around an FA Cup tie for Spurs at Portsmouth with a header and a trademark solo goal. I was in awe.
It is interesting to look back and realise he only broke into the England team relatively late before the World Cup.
But great players take their opportunities. Gazza obviously did it in the Czech game, he could not be left out after that. It is similar to the impact Michael Owen made at the France World Cup in 1998.
It is interesting to realise Gascoigne (left) only broke into the team late before the World Cup
I was fortunate to share a Premier League pitch with Gazza many years later in a Merseyside derby when he was towards the end of his career at Everton. But my two standout memories of the man have nothing to do with that game as it happens.
Our first meeting was at an England training camp when I was with one of the junior teams and we had a friendly game against the seniors.
Gazza started chatting to me at a throw, I was starstruck to be honest and was earnestly answering his question when he gave me a little nudge out the way, collected the throw and darted away, a little wink to tell me I had been kidded.
Many years later, we saw each other driving into training, me to Liverpool, him to Everton. I could not believe it when he wound his window down and said: ‘Hi Danny.’
Gascoigne left an outstanding legacy and he helped the country fall in love with football again
I was thrilled he knew who I was! We slowed right down on the dual carriageway, side by side, having a chat until cars that could not get past were beeping us from behind.
Gazza was oblivious to it, chatting away. I realised but had so much respect for him, I did not want to tell him to stop the conversation and drive away. In the end, we had to let the other traffic through!
Judging Gazza’s overall career is not easy. He had unique attributes that did not equate to trophies or longevity.
But Gazza left an outstanding legacy. He helped the country fall in love with football again. The players who came after owe him a debt of gratitude.
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