“So I gets this Ostrich…”
I have been to a few evening with… events and some of them are polished and rehearsed and others are gloriously shambolic. Like the man himself, an evening with Paul Gascoigne veers to the latter with flamboyant relish. Gazza, of course, needs no introduction but for any readers from Mars, Paul Gascoigne was a footballer for Spurs, Newcastle, Rangers and others. Uniquely though, his most iconic moments came in an England shirt and it is clear when he speaks of representing the Three Lions that those days meant a whole lot to him. But first, the jokes…
Gazza loves a one liner and his opening gambit is an absolute pearler. On his time at Newcastle he comments “The gaffer told me he was looking to bring in a few new faces, I said Gaffer, can you get one for Peter Beardsley“. Cue much audience laughter. There are many moments like this throughout the evening, one when he responds to Glenn Hoddle’s claim to have found God, with the retort “that must have been some fucking pass!”. Another when he comments that he didn’t sign for Kenny Dalglish because he “couldn’t understand a word he was saying”. This is the persona we know of Paul Gascoigne, a joker, a clown. And while he is genuinely funny, it is the glimpses of the man behind the laughter that are the most telling. When he talks about playing for England being an honour you can see that he means it. When he mentions that it is “crowds like this” that make his ongoing problem with drink more manageable, it is clear that this is true.
Gazza is given a great reception but really, everyone is just delighted to see him onstage and smiling, because it could so easily have been much worse for Gascoigne. One story he tells is particularly odious as he reveals that journalists from the Sun newspaper would leave bottles of booze on his doorstep so they could photograph him when he opened the door to pick it up.
Paul John Gascoigne is by no means perfect but in the context of that last story he must be applauded for still bringing so much personality and happiness to the football community. There will never be another one like him. On a cold night in November, Doncaster has been in the company of a legend.
This article was written for Doncopolitan magazine: