This list of Paul Gascoigne's greatest hits first appeared in the July 2021 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe now! (opens in new tab)
There will never be another Paul Gascoigne – that bonkers, brilliant, side-splitting soul adored by generations. But perhaps it’s just as well: only one man could have gotten away with so many traffic accidents, shoot ’em ups, avian scraps and more. FourFourTwo celebrates some of the greatest tales of all...
1 Elton, meet Gazza
Paul Gascoigne was destined for stardom from the very beginning. At the age of 17, he helped Newcastle (opens in new tab) to win the FA Youth Cup in 1985 – a feat they haven’t repeated since.
“I played alongside Gazza at every age level from the age of 10 to the first team,” Joe Allon tells FFT. “When we won the Youth Cup, I swear he must have laid on every goal for me. He was an ugly duckling of a player at times – he carried a bit of puppy fat, and Jack Charlton had threatened to sack him a few days earlier, saying he was overweight.
“But in the final, he turned into the most beautiful swan I’ve ever seen. We won 4-1 at Vicarage Road and Watford (opens in new tab)’s chairman, Elton John, came into our dressing room to congratulate us. Gazza stood up, stark naked in the bath, chanting, ‘Elton, give us a song!’”
2 Firing squad
From an early age, Gascoigne became pals with Jimmy Gardner, nicknamed ‘Five Bellies’ by the midfielder due to his rotund physique. The pair remained close throughout Gazza’s playing career – Five Bellies would frequently be the fall guy in various pranks, from his Newcastle days onwards.
“Jimmy’s mates once got a crossbow from somewhere, and Jimmy put an apple on his head while I tried to hit it,” said Gascoigne. “Then we got hold of an air gun. Jimmy stood about 20 yards away with his pants pulled down and I fired at his bare arse. For each of the pellets I managed to hit him with, I had to pay him £25. His arse ended up looking like the end of a watering can.”
3 Jackson’s drive
Gazza had established himself in Newcastle’s first team by the time Peter Jackson signed from Bradford (opens in new tab) in 1986.
“Jacko was given a brand new sponsored car from a Vauxhall dealership – he was the first player to have a company car,” former defender John Anderson tells FFT. “One day, when Gazza was out injured and everybody else was training, he tucked a fish into the underside of the passenger seat. As the fish rotted, the smell got worse, but Peter didn’t know where it was coming from.
“The whiff was unbelievable. He kept taking the car back to the garage but they couldn’t find the source until one day, it went for a full valet and they discovered loads of maggots where the fish had been…”
4 “Mr Willie, I’m f**king starving”
Mirandinha was the first Brazilian to play in England when he joined Newcastle in 1987, and quickly became mates with Gazza – as well as the victim of several japes.
“During my first trip with the squad, we were coming back from Norwich (opens in new tab) and it was normal procedure to stop for fish and chips,” Mirandinha told FFT. “It was taking longer than usual for that to happen, so Gazza told me to go to the manager Willie McFaul and say ‘Mr Willie, I’m f**king starving’. I went to the front of the bus, said exactly those words and everybody burst out laughing.”
Gascoigne also duped him into telling the squad that the English word for Wednesday was ‘Wankday’, then borrowed his car and crashed it into a field.
“The next day, Mirandinha asked for his car back,” remembered Gazza. “I took him to it, stuck in a fence, with the back wheels nearly touching the front wheels.”
5 Balls to that
Newcastle drew 0-0 at Wimbledon (opens in new tab) in 1988, but a photograph from the match became legendary – after Vinnie Jones grabbed the starlet’s testicles mid-match, in an attempt to put him off his game.
“Vinnie literally followed Gazza all over the pitch, but he used to take our long throws,” Lawrie Sanchez told FFT. “We got a throw near the penalty box, so he said to Gascoigne, ‘Paul, stay there – I’ve got to go and take this long throw, I’ll be back in a minute.’
“Gascoigne was so intimidated by this guy who had been threatening him and marking him all afternoon, that he actually stood where he was until Vinnie came back after taking the throw!”
6 Big bang theory
Long before Mario Balotelli caused chaos with indoor fireworks, Gazza was doing the same – while on under-21 duty with England (opens in new tab).
“One evening, Julian Dicks tried to get me to sneak into town and go to a pub, but I didn’t feel like it,” Gascoigne recalled in his autobiography. “He went on and on, and wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The next day, when he was asleep, I got my own back.
“I bought some fireworks and went into his bathroom, lit a big banger and set it off. The noise was incredible. I rushed into his room shouting, ‘Evacuate, evacuate, bomb blast, bomb blast!’ Dicksy jumped up and ran naked out of the room into the corridor.”
7 Auf wiedersehen, egg
Chris Waddle played alongside Gascoigne for Newcastle, Tottenham (opens in new tab) and England, and saw plenty more of his hotel antics whenever they roomed together.
“Most people would take some cheese and biscuits or a dessert up to the bedroom – he came with 24 eggs,” said Waddle. “He sat at the bedroom window in the hotel, and if there was a cashpoint or a shop, people at the cashpoint were pressing the codes, then eggs were bombing in on them.
“He had a good arm on him, he could really throw. I’d be watching Auf Wiedersehen, Pet on telly and all I’d hear was his arm going.”
8 Cold on Mars
Gascoigne moved to Tottenham for a British record fee of £2.2 million in 1988. His debut? Newcastle away.
“The reception was mixed,” remembered the Geordie. “When I took a corner, someone threw a Mars bar at me. I picked it up and tried to take a bite, but they must have had it in the freezer for months – it was rock hard. I was relieved not to break any teeth.”
Given that it was Newcastle in September, maybe they’d just left it outside for an hour.
9 A hell of a ride
If you agree to become an odd-job man for Gazza, you’re probably asking for trouble.
“When he first signed for Spurs, Paul found a run-around guy called John Coberman,” explained kit man Roy Reyland. “One day at the training ground, Gazza turned up with a massive motorhome that he’d bought for his dad. He told John there was a rattle from the roof, and John climbed up to check it out.
“Gazza started the engine, backed it out of the drive and put his foot down. He drove all the way down to the M1 with poor old John clinging on for his life. When he returned, he was as pale as a milk bottle!”
10 “Please welcome no.8…an ostrich”
When Gazza drove past a zoo en route to training, he had an idea.
“I went in and said, ‘Can I borrow an ostrich, please? I’d like to take it to training’. I put a No.8 shirt on the ostrich and drove to training with it in the back seat – it had a neck like Steve Sedgley. I waited until the lads were on the pitch warming up, then said, ‘Guys, I’ve got a new player for you!’ and sent the ostrich out.
“The lads were running side to side, and the ostrich was behind them, doing exactly the same. But the worst thing was that the lads finished training at 1pm – I finished at about 5pm. Have you ever tried to catch an ostrich?”
11 The soap dispenser
Gascoigne was a relative newcomer to the England squad when they visited Albania for a World Cup qualifier in March 1989.
“There was a noise in the room opposite mine,” Tony Cottee told FFT. “I walked in and Gazza was launching bars of soap, trying to hit the chickens in the courtyard. Every time he hit a chicken, he’d scream in celebration.
“Bobby Robson came in and said, ‘Gazza! What are you doing?’ Gazza said, ‘Throwing soap at the chickens’ arses, boss.’ Bobby said, ‘Oh OK, that’s all right’ and walked off. Because it was Gazza, he got away with it – anyone else would have got told off!”
12 Gazza vs Yogi Bear
When Spurs made the trip to Selhurst Park in 1989, all hell broke loose during the warm-up.
“We were away at Crystal Palace (opens in new tab), and there were these mascots mucking around – three blokes dressed as Postman Pat, Jess the Cat and Yogi Bear,” explained Gazza. “Jess the Cat came and shook my hand, then I decided to go one better and wrestle Yogi Bear. While I was cavorting with Yogi, I kicked the cat up the backside. It was only meant to be a tap, but I was wearing football boots…”
The afternoon ended with Spurs winning 3-2, and Jess the Cat demanding an apology.
13 “He thought diabetes was a famous boxer”
Gazza’s captain at Spurs was Gary Mabbutt.
“I’m a diabetic, so I always got on the bus early after a game and had my injections,” the defender told FFT. “I was on the coach with my needle, then Gazza said, ‘What are you doing?’ I’d tried to tell to him what being diabetic meant, but I think at that stage he thought diabetes was a famous boxer.
“I said, ‘I have to inject myself four times a day.’ He said, ‘What, every day? For the rest of your life, or just while you’re in football?’ I said, ‘For the rest of my life’. He said, ‘For the rest of your life… I bet you can’t wait to die!’”
THAT goal! 🙌THAT commentary! 🙌 Paul Gascoigne maybe 53 today, but his magic is legendary...#bbcfootball pic.twitter.com/crVfVn7itLMay 27, 2020
14 Ice cream Sundays
During Gazza’s four years at White Hart Lane, offering him a lift anywhere was ill-advised.
In the car on the way to a home game, Paul Stewart had to turn around and drive the wrong way up a dual carriageway, after Gascoigne had left something at home. Gazza resolved the situation by holding a wallet to the window, pretending it was a police warrant card.
On another occasion, he tucked into an ice cream after being picked up from the airport by Paul Walsh. “As we went past a cyclist, Gazza let his window down, flicked his wrist and the ice cream hit the bloke full on in the face,” Walsh revealed in the book Our Gazza. “This poor geezer was covered in ice cream, trying to see where he was going. Suddenly, the traffic lights turned red. Gazza put the window back up and locked the door, which was being punched and kicked by this guy.”
15 Pigeon patrol
Gascoigne’s air rifle wasn’t solely reserved for aiming at Jimmy Five Bellies’ backside. As well as putting a dent in the golden cockerel that sat atop White Hart Lane’s main stand, he also failed in an bid to become a one-man pest control service at the stadium.
“I was at the club one Thursday and asked the groundsman, ‘What are you doing?’” said Gazza. “He replied, ‘I’ve got to get rid of these pigeons.’ I said, ‘I’ll help.’ I got up on the roof, but as I moved over, I fell and landed 30 feet below on the steps. I had a bruise all the way down my leg. I said, ‘Gaffer, I don’t think I can train today, the pigeon did it…’”
16 World in commotion
You know when they show the starting XIs on television before a match, and there’s a graphic of each player walking up to the camera, folding their arms and giving it full 'blue steel'? Never try that with Gazza.
Broadcasters had to learn the hard way at Italia 90 – players were asked to mouth their own name, but the England man had other ideas, mouthing ‘f**king wanker’ and hoping no one noticed. Somehow they didn’t – it was sent on to broadcasters for use at the finals.
17 Ruling Robbo out of Italia 90
Terry Butcher was England’s captain for the knockout stages of the 1990 World Cup – it was supposed to be Bryan Robson, until fate intervened. Or more accurately, Gazza.
“After the game against Holland (opens in new tab), a few of us sneaked out to a pub,” Gascoigne later explained. “Suddenly we heard some police sirens – Bobby Robson had sent the police to look for us. We ran like hell back to the hotel. I threw myself on the bed, messing around, and Bryan tried to tip me off it by lifting it up and turning it over – but he slipped, and the bed fell on his toe. There was blood everywhere. He was out of the World Cup.”
18 Gazza 1-0 Tutankhamun
England were in the same World Cup group as Egypt (opens in new tab), so the Three Lions’ stay in Italy was the perfect time for Gascoigne to emulate the ways of the pharaohs.
“We were sat by the swimming pool, then there was a commotion on the diving board,” Stuart Pearce told FFT. “Gazza had stripped off naked, mummified himself in toilet roll and launched himself into the pool.
“The toilet roll floated to the surface, Gazza swam a length, got out naked and walked to his room. Bear in mind it wasn’t just players there, it was members of the public as well...”
19 Worst dive ever
England’s first knockout match was against Belgium (opens in new tab) in Bologna, requiring a short flight from the team’s base on Sardinia.
“To take my mind off the flight, I went into the cockpit and persuaded the pilot to show me how to fly,” said Gascoigne. “He told me which switches you flick to make the aircraft go up, down or sideways. I wasn’t supposed to touch any, but I grabbed one and pulled it. The plane immediately went into a dive…”
20 Causing a racket
What’s the perfect way to prepare for the biggest game of your life? Wear yourself out playing tennis, obviously.
“The day before the Germany game, Bobby Robson said, ‘Plenty of rest tonight – it’s the World Cup semi-finals tomorrow’,” recalled Gazza. “At 10pm, I heard two American guys playing tennis. I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind a game of tennis’. I started taking the two of them on and was getting a bit tired – I’d been playing for about an hour. Then I heard someone shout, ‘Gazza!’ – it was the gaffer.
“I looked at him to apologise, but he walked past me and went absolutely ballistic with the two Americans, shouting, ‘Do you know he’s got the most important game of his life tomorrow, do you not know who he is?’ They didn’t know what he was talking about!”
21 Snakes and broomsticks
When Gazza found a nine-foot snake at his first villa in Italy, he was so terrified that he quickly moved house. At his second home, he encountered a smaller one.
“I found a two-foot snake in the bedroom,” he said. “I wasn’t as scared, so I whacked it with a broom and took the dead snake with me to training. When everyone had gone out, I put it in Roberto Di Matteo’s jacket pocket. He came in after training, got changed and put his hand in his pocket. He went apes**t…”
22 Maggie: the cuddly type
Gascoigne received a hero’s welcome when he returned to England after the 1990 World Cup – and even met the Prime Minister, who wasn’t known for tactility.
“Hundreds of thousands of fans greeted us – we had an open-top bus parade after flying into Luton Airport, and Gazza was wearing false breasts,” Bryan Robson recalled to FFT. “We were invited to meet Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street, and were all on best behaviour. Everyone else shook her hand, but Gazza gave her a big cuddle. Only Gazza would do something like that.”
23 Storm in a teapot
A cruciate knee ligament injury hospitalised Gascoigne after the 1991 FA Cup Final, but that didn’t stop him generating mayhem.
“Jimmy came to see me, and brought me a pellet gun,” he said. “It came in handy for pointing out of the window at the photographers waiting down below in the street. But mostly we just dropped water bombs on them.”
Gazza had already agreed to join Lazio (opens in new tab) when he sustained the injury – the transfer was delayed for a year, and the Italian side’s general manager headed to England to visit him during his recovery.
“Maurizio Manzini came to see me train,” said Gazza. “One of the youth lads was sent to get him a pot of tea. This lad was heading towards us, carefully carrying the teapot on a tray, and I got out my rifle and shot the teapot right off the tray. I think Lazio were starting to wonder what they were signing.”
24 “er, nice to meet you”
If Lazio president Sergio Cragnotti wasn’t already wondering what he’d let himself in for, he certainly was when he met Gazza.
The deal had already been agreed when Cragnotti took over the club, and the pair came face to face at Lazio’s training ground after Gascoigne finally completed the move to Italy in 1992.
“I said to him, ‘Tua figlia, grande tette’ – ‘Your daughter, big tits,’” remembered Gazza. “He wasn’t amused. I only discovered later that I’d mixed up the daughters – I’d been thinking of his brother’s daughter.”
25 Winter of discontent
In the same summer that Gascoigne arrived, Aron Winter joined Lazio from Ajax (opens in new tab).
“On my first day, I was in my hotel room and someone knocked on the door,” Winter told FFT. “Paul was standing there, half-naked with a bottle of champagne to welcome me.”
Later, Winter got more than he bargained for when he visited a restaurant with his wife. “Paul was in the same restaurant with his girlfriend, although I didn’t notice him at first,” explained the Dutch midfielder. “When they’d finished, Paul told the waiter, ‘My friend Aron will pay.’ The waiter didn’t believe him, so Paul called me. When I saw him, I raised my hand to greet him. He said to the waiter, ‘You see, Aron says it’s OK.’
“When I finished my meal, I was shocked when I got the bill, because it was quite high. I hadn’t eaten that much, but then I realised what had happened…”
26 The bank raid
Gazza was given his own personal security guards in Rome – a great idea until one of them mistook him for a burglar, and pointed a gun to his head. On another occasion, they were more useful.
“All of Lazio’s bodyguards worked for Italy’s leading security firm, who also looked after the country’s money,” said Gascoigne. “When I found out one of their jobs was guarding a huge bank vault, I got them to sneak me in with Jimmy. I sat on this huge mountain of money, about £50m, and started chucking wads in the air.”
27 Tunnel vision
Dino Zoff was Lazio’s manager when Gazza moved to Serie A, and was permanently kept on his toes by his star man.
Once, Gascoigne attempted to fool the boss by lying in front of the team bus in a pool of fake blood, pretending to be dead. Another time, he stole the whistle that Zoff used to referee practice matches, and attached it to a live turkey that he had brought to training.
“Gazza was capable of anything,” striker Beppe Signori told FFT. “One time he showed up naked in the hall of the hotel when we were away on a retreat, then he did the same thing on the team bus. When we were going through a dark tunnel, he got undressed and sat next to Dino Zoff!”
28 The world was his lobster
Gazza’s time at Lazio afforded him access to some of Rome’s finest eateries.
“I went to a posh restaurant and ordered lobster, because I’d seen they had a massive lobster tank,” he revealed. “I pointed to the one I wanted, but they were taking so long.
I thought, ‘What are they doing? I’ll just get it myself’, so I dived into the tank in my best suit. It took me a while, swimming around, to catch the one I fancied. When I finally did, I hooked it out and said, ‘There’s the f**ker I want’. Then I ate it in my dripping-wet suit.”
29 Rome, via Phnom Penh
Race Across The World didn’t exist as a TV show until 2019, but Gazza was inflicting the idea on unsuspecting associates a quarter of a century earlier.
Inevitably, one of them was serial victim Jimmy Five Bellies. “I drove my car at him at about 30mph, just to scare him, which it did – especially when I hit him,” confessed Gazza. “I thought I’d killed him, but he recovered.”
Later, the midfielder was invited along to the Vatican – he arrived five minutes too late to meet the Pope, but received a medal and asked Jimmy to fly from England to collect it.
“When he arrived at Newcastle airport, he realised he had to fly first to Heathrow, then Copenhagen, Lisbon, Paris, all sorts. It took him about two days. I enjoyed that trick so much that I pulled it again, with my brother. This time I was more ambitious, with the first flight taking him to Cambodia…”
30 “The IRA were going to kill me”
Gazza joined Rangers (opens in new tab) in July 1995 – within weeks, he’d caused a sectarian row during a pre-season friendly.
“Ian Ferguson told me, ‘If you score, do the Sash,’” revealed Gascoigne. The celebration involved pretending to play the flute, as if on an Orange Order parade. “I said, ‘What’s the Sash?’ He showed me and said fans would love it. I thought, ‘I’ll do anything for the fans’, so I did it against Steaua Bucharest (opens in new tab).”
If he didn’t realise what the gesture meant the first time, he ill-advisedly did it again in 1998 – at Celtic Park.
“The IRA were going to kill me,” he said. “I used to look around the crowd and try to see if anyone had a gun. The police came and said, ‘Check under your car for bombs,’ so I got Jimmy to drive me into work. I’d just have a cigarette 300 yards away and let Jimmy start the car to see whether it blew up or not.”
31 Subbed to the pub
For Gascoigne, England games at Wembley were the perfect opportunity for mischief. Well, any game to be honest. But particularly England games at Wembley.
“During the warm-up, he’d ping a ball in the direction of the band – once I saw him chip the ball into one of those giant trombones,” said Terry Venables. “He also pinched a Royal Marine’s helmet and received a full military dressing down from an angry drum major, who came into the dressing room and bawled at him to give it back,” revealed Gary Lineker.
In March 1996, England hosted Bulgaria (opens in new tab) in a friendly. “Terry Venables told Gazza that he was going to take him off after 80 minutes,” admitted mate Danny Baker. “Gazza passed this information to me and Chris Evans, drew a map of the service roads at the back of Wembley, and told us to bring a car and be outside a specific door 10 minutes before the end of the game. The door opened, and out came Gazza in his England strip.
“A few minutes down the road, we pulled up outside a fairly crowded pub. People were standing outside with drinks, and Gazza got out and engaged them in conversation. The game was continuing on the television, while Gazza was standing in his England strip with a lit cigarette.”
32 Gazza’s on fire, this restaurant is terrified
The infamous dentist’s chair incident before Euro 96? Inevitably, it was Gazza’s idea.
“I went in for a filling and I came out drunk – it must have been some anaesthetic!” the schemer told FFT. “I decided I’d be the first one in the chair because it looked like a good laugh, then a few of the lads did it.”
Gary Neville hadn’t been among those at the nightclub. “The first I knew about it was when I came down for lunch the next day,” he recalled. “Gazza was lighting a cigar with something that looked like a Bunsen burner from a chemistry class. The flame was about three feet long. In the dining room of a five-star hotel, he was almost setting fire to himself.”
33 A relaxing day at the lake
Terry Venables had a strategy to deal with an excitable Gazza at Euro 96 – he told goalkeeper David Seaman to take him fishing.
Before the quarter-final against Spain (opens in new tab), they headed to the nearest lake. “He saw a trout, went for a big cast, then bosh... flew straight into the lake,” said Seaman. “He was shouting, ‘Help, get me out!’
“Another day, me, Gazza and Ian Walker went fishing on a boat in the middle of the lake. There was a bloke there who looked like a fisherman, but then he popped up behind the reeds, taking pictures. We started rowing in, I phoned the fishery owner and said, ‘Close the gate, we need to get the film off him’.
“Gazza ran after the guy, who was at the gate in his car, because the gate was locked. Gazza reached in and nicked his phone, then started letting his tyre down, so the guy drove off and smashed straight through the gate.”
34 Mop top strop
Gazza famously scored against Scotland at Euro 96 – and made the most of it when he returned to Rangers for the new campaign.
“I’d been hammered for a few months beforehand by the players, saying, ‘We’re going to stick it right up you, English bastard,’” said Gazza. “Afterwards, I used to get a mop and pretend it was Colin Hendry – I’d flick the ball over the mop, volley it past Andy Goram, then do the celebration. He wasn’t happy…”
🗣️ "I would give Gascoigne ten minutes and go!"When Paul Gascoigne answered his critics at Euro 96...#bbceuro2020 #ENGSCOJune 18, 2021
35 Cup final fever
In November 1996, Rangers faced Hearts (opens in new tab) in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park – only for Gazza to have a blazing row with Ally McCoist in the first half.
“At half-time, the two of us were still going at it,” said McCoist. “Walter Smith was getting angrier – I knew to keep my mouth shut, but Gazza kept going. Eventually, Walter picked him up by the scruff of the neck, hung him up on the pegs where you put your coats and said, ‘Paul, I’ll not tell you again to shut up.’ Gazza walked into the directors’ room in his strip, drank a whisky, then came out for the second half and scored a couple of goals. He was unbelievable.”
Rangers eventually won 4-3 – Gascoigne was banned from attending the post-match party, but showed up anyway. “I found out where they were and turned up at the Indian restaurant,” he said. “I was dancing on the table bollock naked.”
36 The wheels on the bus go rogue, rogue, rogue
Days after a Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic (opens in new tab) in 1997, Gazza was given permission to head to London for a week... as long as he stayed out of the newspapers.
He swiftly linked up with showbiz pals Evans and Baker – the trio headed to the Television and Radio Industries Club’s annual awards ceremony, but got stuck in traffic.
“Behind us was a London bus,” Baker later wrote. “Gazza got out of the taxi, walked up to the driver’s window and shook his hand. Then he hauled himself up into the driver’s cab alongside his new friend – with Paul’s hands firmly on the wheel. He drove the bus along the Bayswater Road. Marble Arch isn’t for skylarking amateurs, but Paul was at the wheel, pantomiming an irate motorist as the bus careered over the junction. He really did drive a London bus full of people around Marble Arch in broad daylight.
“Later, he saw a gang of council workers digging up a pavement – one of them passed a pneumatic drill his way and he dug up a few sections of London, several feet from where work had actually commenced. ‘Your mate,’ the taxi driver said to us. ‘He’s not all there, is he?’”
37 Two for the price of one
Gazza had put a fish in a team-mate’s car during his Newcastle days – but by the time he’d reached Rangers, he’d honed his craft. He put two fish in a car.
“We used to come to training in collar and tie at Ibrox – it was in the history of the club,” said Ally McCoist. “One morning, Gascoigne comes in with this pair of waders on, with a collar and tie underneath it, holding up two of the biggest trout you’ve ever seen.
“Later, he asked me, ‘Who’s been annoying you?’ I said, ‘Gordon Durie,’ so he told me, ‘Go into his pocket and get his car keys.’ We unscrewed the spare wheel – I threw one of the fish in and went to throw the other in, but Gazza said, ‘No.’ He found a compartment in the back seat, and threw the other fish in there. He said, ‘When he finds the first fish, he’ll just think that’s it.’ It was a sensational criminal mind...
“For the next three or four days, Durie was saying, ‘The smell in my car, I can’t get rid of it – I’m stopping at traffic lights and people are walking by and sniffing.’ He found the first fish, but said, ‘For the life of me, I can’t get rid of the smell.’ You know those Christmas tree air fresheners? It looked like Sherwood Forest in his car!”
38 Beware the swan
Dead fish are one thing – a live swan is quite another, as former Rangers midfielder Ian Durrant remembered.
“We were playing golf at Loch Lomond, when Gazza disappeared into some bushes and came out clutching a huge swan,” said Durrant. “Don’t ask me how he managed to catch the thing, but he got it into the car and it was attacking Ally McCoist.
“You might go down the park and you see a swan 20 yards away, and it’s idyllic,” the midfielder explained. “Three yards away, it’s enormous and up for a square go. We were in the back of a Range Rover driving around and it was chaos. The swan was going mad. There was £22,000 worth of damage…”
39 Lost in translation
Rangers signed Gennaro Gattuso in 1997 – unfortunately, Gascoigne turned out to be a rather ineffective translator for the Italian.
“The Old Firm game was coming up, and Gattuso was running about scything people at training,” said Ally McCoist. “Walter Smith was going off his head, saying, ‘We’re playing Celtic this weekend, we need to watch some of these tackles’. So he shouts, ‘Gazza! You can speak Italian, tell Gattuso to calm down’.
“Wrong man… Walter should have known better. In broken Italian, Gazza told Gattuso, ‘The manager wants more from you – if you want to play, you need to show a level of commitment in training’. Two minutes later, the ball got played to me and I was wearing six studs on my chest from a Gattuso tackle. Walter was going apoplectic!”
40 That sinking feeling
For one car to end up underwater over a 19-year playing career, it might have been regarded as misfortune. Two, and it could only have been Gazza.
As a Newcastle player, Gascoigne released the handbrake on a pal’s car, before it rolled down a steep hill and into the River Tyne. At Rangers, he went to Loch Lomond with Chris Evans – but not before finding a local garage.
“We asked for the cheapest car they had,” said Evans. “The man said, ‘It’s a death trap.’ We said, ‘Perfect.’ We painted it black, drove it to Cameron House, straight down the jetty and into the loch.”
41 Dressed to impress
Rangers fans worshipped Gazza in Glasgow – and on one occasion, it led to a bizarre costume change.
“We went to a pub and the lady behind the bar was a massive Gazza fan,” said Stuart McCall. “She asked whether she could have the T-shirt he was wearing – he said she could, as long as he could have her top in exchange. He put it on and then we were back in the car, but there was a horrible smell. The girl’s top wasn’t the most hygienic.
“The next minute, Gazza disappeared into a charity shop and re-emerged in a blue and white dress. In the next pub, no one made a big thing of him wearing a dress. ‘Oh, it’s Gazza’ was the general opinion.”
42 “Mind that bollard”
Gascoigne moved to Middlesbrough (opens in new tab) in 1998 – first, he was seen leaping over a hedge on a motorbike, then he commandeered a bus.
“The club had bought a brand new coach – it must have cost a gazillion quid as it had just about every appliance known to man,” said Paul Merson. “Gazza noticed the keys were in the ignition, so he fired up the engine and started the one-mile drive to the high street to put bets on for a few of the players.
“He didn’t get far – at the end of the road that led out of the training ground, he turned right and crashed the coach into a concrete bollard. The locks on the compartments that contained our kit had been mangled, so the doors were wedged shut. We ended up on another bus, having new shirts sent straight to the game at Aston Villa (opens in new tab).”
43 Waterlogged baize
Gazza was known for his OCD traits at Boro. Sharing a house with Andy Townsend, he struggled to sleep after the Ireland midfielder borrowed a coffee mug and accidentally took it to Birmingham while visiting his family. The six-mug collection was incomplete, so Jimmy Five Bellies was dispatched to the Midlands to retrieve the cup at 1am.
On another occasion, Gazza’s snooker room flooded with water from a hole in the ceiling, due to a faulty toilet upstairs. “He squelched across the room, got the triangle and reds, and tried to set the balls back up again,” said Townsend. “He took the triangle off, and all the reds started floating away on the water. I said, ‘What are you doing?!’”
44 Don’t come back in anger
Put Liam Gallagher and Paul Gascoigne in the same room in the ’90s, and it wasn’t going to end well. Soho’s Groucho Club found that out.
“He had a big steak in front of him, then he went to the toilet and I ate his steak,” said Gazza. “He came back and said, ‘Where’s my f**king steak?’ I rubbed my stomach and he said, ‘F**k it.’ I thought he was going to order another steak, but instead he came back with a fire extinguisher.”
“I was going to spray the whole gaff with foam, and the last word that came out of his mouth was, ‘Nooooo!’” said Gallagher. “I said, ‘F**king yeah, you Geordie f**king c**t, f**k off’. I was like the Terminator; he was like Father Christmas, covered like a snowman.”
45 Gazza and Wazza
Gazza left Everton (opens in new tab) just a few months before Wayne Rooney’s first-team debut in 2002, but he was already well aware of the young talent in the Goodison ranks.
Gascoigne first spotted Rooney putting in an impressive display for the under-19s. The emerging star was only 14, but not too early for the veteran to start leading him astray.
“I went into the dressing room and said, ‘Well done lads, I’ve got £40 spare, is anyone going out tonight?’” he recalled. “Rooney said, ‘I am’, so I said, ‘There’s £40, go get yourself a couple of pints’. He’s never given me that £40 back – the interest is about £1.2m now!”
46 Big Shaq, big blisters
Gascoigne’s move to Everton had seen him link up with Thomas Gravesen in midfield.
“Me and Lee Carsley had come in early in the morning one day, and we were sitting in the dressing room,” the Dane told FFT. “It was 8am and suddenly we heard a noise in the hall. It was someone making massive steps. We looked at each other thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ The door to the dressing room gets kicked in, and in comes Gazza. He’d bought Shaquille O’Neal’s shoes – he had size 52s on.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing?!’ He said, ‘I’ve got blisters!’ I said, ‘You’ve got blisters?’ He said, ‘They’re not easy to drive in.’ He had an automatic – his boots were getting stuck!”
47 Bird brain
After an ostrich at Spurs, a turkey at Lazio and a swan at Rangers, Gazza introduced another bird to the fray at Everton – a parrot.
“Whenever I went to Bellefield, Gazza was up to something,” the club’s former head of media Alan Myers told The Athletic. “One day I walked in and Walter Smith said, ‘Do me a favour. Get it out’. I had no idea what he was on about, but I walked into the dressing room and there was this big green and grey parrot sat on one of the shelves. Gazza had brought it. There was a pet shop in Woolton Village and he’d bought it before training. The lads were going mad because it was flying around while they were trying to get ready.”
48 Robot Wars
Why go to the effort of insulting your friends yourself, when you can get a robot to do it?
That was the very sensible conclusion that Gazza came to when he called upon artificial intelligence to inflict more banter on Jimmy Five Bellies. Gascoigne paid £1,000 for the robot, programming it to go into Gardner’s room and shout, ‘Make a cup of tea, fat man’. At least it didn’t shoot him with an air rifle.
49 “Cup of tea, lads?”
Gazza’s spell at Burnley (opens in new tab) lasted two months in 2002, but it was long enough to make a mark.
“He used to put laxatives in the tea,” said midfielder Paul Weller. While some players were suspicious that a renowned prankster seemed eager to make a brew, others felt honoured that a legend was at their service.
“I didn’t drink tea before training then, but Gordon Armstrong had three!” said Weller. “Stan Ternent thought it was funny, until he realised we had a game tomorrow and half the team had downed a bottle of laxatives...”
Burnley won only one of Gazza’s six outings.
50 “What do penguins eat?”
Gascoigne joined Chinese side Gansu Tianma (opens in new tab) in 2003, and filled his days by visiting the zoo.
He soon asked if he could feed the tigers – the zookeeper was initially reluctant (Gazza, tigers, what could go wrong?) only to be worn down. Gazza rooted through a box of tiger food and pulled out a horse’s head, before dangling it in front of the cage.
“The tigers would roar and paw at the bars,” Danny Baker wrote in Behind Closed Doors. “The head was heavy and Paul realised he’d need to give it a hoick to clear the bars, so
he began to swing it. As he swung it back for the last time, he lost his grip and the horse’s head flew behind him, over a wall and into the penguins’ enclosure. Is Gazza the only England player to have fed raw horse meat to penguins? I hazard that he is.”
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