FourFourTwo's 50 Most Memorable Euros Goals: 3. Paul Gascoigne, ENGLAND v Scotland, 1996
A goal as memorable for its celebration – but what a goal, and what a celebration. And like all the best stories, this tale of redemption had a certain symmetry to it.
“Mr Gascoigne: An Apology,” read a Daily Mirror headline two days after the Geordie’s wonder strike against Scotland. The tabloid had been particularly critical of Gazza and some of his teammates after their ‘dentist’s chair’ antics in Hong Kong on a pre-tournament trip that had been captured on camera. And the red tops would have been sharpening their knives again as Gary McAllister stepped up to equalise for Scotland from the penalty spot, after Alan Shearer had given England the lead in the Group A game following a fine team move.
Only the Scotland captain didn’t equalise. His spotkick was saved by David Seaman after the ball had inexplicably moved – Uri Gellar later claiming responsibility – on the spot as McAllister took his run-up. Seconds later, England burst forward. Darren Anderton cushioned the ball inside from the left flank and there was Gascoigne, still with plenty of work to do to even fashion a goalscoring opportunity.
Instinct takes over
I flicked it over his [Colin Hendry’s] head [with his left foot] and volleyed it [with his right]. You can’t teach kids that
“I could see Colin Hendry coming in,” he told FourFourTwo. “So I flicked it over his head [with his left foot] and volleyed it [with his right]. You can’t teach kids that, it was pure instinct. I trained with Andy Goram every day, so I knew how to beat him. I knew I had to get over the ball and hit it low. God, the feeling when I scored was magnificent! It’s all coming back now. I’m so glad I scored that goal.”
Evidently. But before Gascoigne could express his clear joy and relief at doing something notable on the pitch instead of off it, came his party piece. Immediately after putting England 2-0 in front he spotted, and pointed to, a water bottle near the byline and lay prostrate on the Wembley turf. Led by Teddy Sheringham, one of Gascoigne’s cohorts in Hong Kong, several England players proceeded to re-enact the dentist’s chair. Poetry. “I timed that goal so well,” admitted the midfielder. “On the coach to Wembley I told the lads we should do the dentist chair celebration.”
“That celebration was perfect,” agrees Sheringham. “It lifted the mood, all the doubts stopped. We could laugh about what had gone on. That’s the English mentality to laugh at ourselves and it was great to take the p**s out of it.”
A goal full of meaning
It was at Wembley for my country and I loved it. Forced to choose [between that and the free-kick past another friend, David Seaman, in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final], I’d probably go for the one at Euro 96
Given Gazza’s subsequent battle with the bottle, the celebration now takes on a certain sadness, but the goal itself was a standalone moment of brilliance, if not the first he’d scored beneath the Twin Towers. “The one against Scotland was amazing,” he told FFT. “It was at Wembley for my country and I loved it. Forced to choose [between that and the free-kick past another friend, David Seaman, in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final], I’d probably go for the one at Euro 96.
“People often ask me whether that’s the best goal I’ve ever scored, and it was a memorable one. It was one of the best, although I scored one or two in Italy that never get shown on TV which were just as good.
“In terms of what the goal meant though, you couldn’t beat it. I was playing in Scotland for Rangers at the time. I had taken a beasting about the game, so it was really sweet. And to have 70,000 odd fans singing your name is just unbelievable.”
As for the Daily Mirror, all was forgiven: “Gazza is no longer a fat, drunken imbecile,” they wrote. “He is in fact a football genius.” You can't say fairer than that.