No self-respecting England fan, regardless of age, should forget about the English international sensation that was, Paul Gascoigne. The cheeky, yet divinely gifted Geordie brought an unprecedented level of joy to all those who watched him in his prime during the late eighties and early nineties.
With mesmerisingly quick feet, precision passing and an inspired vision of the game around him, Gascoigne was arguably the most talented footballer ever produced on these shores and certainly amongst the very best performers of all time on an international stage.
With England’s Euro 2016 campaign just hours away, it’s only fitting to look back at the moments that defined Gascoigne’s fairytale England career:
5. Gascoigne’s First England Goal
Within two months of moving to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record fee of £2.2m, Gazza received his first call-up from Three Lions boss Bobby Robson, making his debut on 14 September 1988 in a Wembley friendly against Denmark.
Four games later against Albania, Gascoigne emerged from the bench to score his first goal for his country. Though this is by no means Gazza’s most iconic moment, this was the start of everything that came to follow – Gascoigne went on to play 57 times for England over a 10-year spell, scoring 10 goals.
4. Euro 96: Gascoigne vs Holland
There was no wonder goal to crown Gascoigne’s performance against Holland in Euro 96, but this scintillating assist and subsequent celebration will live long in the memory of England fans. Despite Shearer claiming all the plaudits for the goal, typically it was Gazza who wore the broadest smile of all.
3. Italia 90: Tears in Turin
Still heartbreaking to this day – a booking for the over-zealous Gazza in the World Cup semi-final against West-Germany ruled him out of a potential final and led Gary Linker to urge Sir Bobby to ‘have a word with him’.
Eyes glistening with tears Gazza pushed England to penalty finale against their old enemy. Not since Gascoigne has a player shown such patriotism in an England shirt – he returned home a national treasure.
2. Euro 96: The ‘Golden Goal’ Miss
The one moment in English football history where time actually appeared to slow down. As Shearer rolls his cross past three defenders and the German goalkeeper. The goal is at Gascoigne’s mercy at the far post, he throws every essence of his entire being to get on the end of it but almost inexplicably, he misses the ball entirely.
It rolls away for a goal kick and the sound of disbelieving screams reverberates around Wembley. It was England’s biggest chance of glory since 1966, but it eluded us by mere millimetres.
1. Euro 96: The Wondergoal Against Scotland
By 1996, Gazza was no longer able to mask his off-field lifestyle with exuberant, but that didn’t stop the midfield genius providing the England supporters with both the moment of the tournament, but also one of Wembley’s defining moments.
As the ball deflected to him on the edge of the penalty area, with one deft touch, he looped it over Colin Hendry’s head and volleyed home in one swift movement – a moment of pure genius.
The dentist chair celebration that followed sealed the eternally golden memory of Gascoigne’s England career.