• June 20, 2021

Exclusive: Paul Gascoigne thought ‘my career was over at 23’ as England legend opens up on Italia 90 tears, World Cup heartbreak at France 98 and awkward meeting with Glenn Hoddle in a lift

 Exclusive: Paul Gascoigne thought ‘my career was over at 23’ as England legend opens up on Italia 90 tears, World Cup heartbreak at France 98 and awkward meeting with Glenn Hoddle in a lift


Paul Gascoigne has revealed why he broke down in tears at Italia 90 – and it wasn’t just because England had just been knocked out of the World Cup semi-finals.

It’s perhaps one of the most iconic moments in English football history, with one of England’s football’s biggest icons front and centre of the sad scenes as the Three Lions crashed out to Germany, on penalties.

Gazza famously cried during and after England’s 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany, having been shown a yellow card which would have ruled him out of the World Cup final had England reached it

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Gazza famously cried during and after England’s 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany, having been shown a yellow card which would have ruled him out of the World Cup final had England reached it

Gazza was the darling of English football, who lit up the world stage at Italia 90 and would go on to do the same at Euro 96.

The pictures of the mercurial midfielder sobbing into his shirt have gone down in folklore, but Gascoigne has told talkSPORT he wasn’t merely upset about the semi-final defeat, or that he had earlier been shown a yellow card that would have ruled him out of the final.

No, after experiencing what he describes as ‘the best six weeks a player could wish for’, in that moment Gazza feared his career might already be over – despite being just 23 at the time.

In an exclusive documentary with close friend and former Rangers teammate Ally McCoist for talkSPORT – ‘Gazza and McCoist: Together Again’ – Gascoigne recalled the scenes, and revealed he wasn’t upset for the reasons many have believed for years.

The England legend said: “That semi-final, I thought ‘just carry on playing well’, I knew I was up against [Lothar] Matthaus and I think it was one of the best games I’d played. I worked hard.

“When I look back, to think how close we were, when Chris Waddle hit the post you know, you look back and think ‘if that went in’…

Gascoigne is consoled by Terry Butcher after the game against West Germany

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Gascoigne is consoled by Terry Butcher after the game against West Germany

“But the tears, it wasn’t just losing the semi-final.

“I had such a great time, Coisty, I honestly thought in my head ‘that’s my career over’, even though I was only 23!

“Our fans didn’t leave with their heads down, they were singing, they were singing my name, Bobby Robson said ‘you’ve done well for your country, you’ve done yourself and your family proud’, and Terry Butcher put his arm around us – that built us up.

“It wasn’t a case of selfishness, it was just that I think I had the best six weeks a player could wish for, when you’re at school and you’re watching World Cups in the 70s…”

There was more tournament disappointment on the way for Gazza, with England’s hopes of bringing football home ended by another semi-final defeat to Germany – also on penalties, of course – at Euro 96.

Incredibly, that would be his final major tournament in a Three Lions shirt.

While remaining a key player for England, Gazza paid the price for his lifestyle and off-field issues as he was omitted from England’s squad for the World Cup in 1998 by manager Glenn Hoddle.

Gascoigne never played for England again after missing out on the France 98 squad

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Gascoigne never played for England again after missing out on the France 98 squad

The midfield star had been involved in all the qualifying games and friendlies leading up to the tournament and was included in the provisional squad before being among those cut by Hoddle at the final minute.

England went on to lose to Argentina in the last 16 on penalties – the infamous game where David Beckham was shown a red card for a kick out at Diego Simeone.

Gascoigne never played for the Three Lions again and Hoddle was left to rue what might have been in what proved to be his one and only tournament as England boss.

Gazza recalled the aftermath of his axing and how he reacted when he had a chance encounter with Hoddle soon after…

“I always remember Walter Smith and Terry Venables saying to us ‘just be careful, he might want to make a name out of you’. I thought nothing of it,” he said of being snubbed by Hoddle.

“I remember being on the flight back, there was me, Ian Walker, Carlton Palmer – we were all crying.

Gazza was overlooked by Hoddle in one of the most controversial decisions in English football history

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Gazza was overlooked by Hoddle in one of the most controversial decisions in English football history

“I remember thinking the press are going to be on us like hound dogs. I’ve never seen so much press outside the house I was staying in.

“In my head I said ‘at least I played in one World Cup and did myself proud’.

“I eventually had the courage to leave the house and remember going to a hotel in London and England were by then out.

“I opened the lift and Glenn Hoddle was standing in the lift. He just looked at us and went ‘sorry what happened’. I just got off at the next floor and didn’t saying anything.

“A few years later when I bumped into him again I said it was all forgotten about. I’m one of those who just moves on.

“That was probably the biggest disappointment I’ve had in my career.”

Hoddle was the man to make the controversial call

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Hoddle was the man to make the controversial call

Gazza also had his say on the current England crop and their chances to end England’s major tournament hoodoo with Gareth Southgate at the helm.

And the cheeky Geordie couldn’t resist a quip about his ex-Three Lions teammate and their change of fortunes…

“I cannae get this, Coisty, I really can’t and I need the country to help me here,” Gazza told McCoist.

“I scored my penalty and Gareth Southgate missed his, right?

Southgate missed the crucial penalty as England went crashing out of Euro 96

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Southgate missed the crucial penalty as England went crashing out of Euro 96

But now the former centre-back is England manager and leading the Three Lions to Euro 2020

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But now the former centre-back is England manager and leading the Three Lions to Euro 2020

“I ended up in rehab, he’s ended up the manager of England and done a £20,000 pizza advert – what did I do wrong?!

“I told Gareth that, and he just laughed!”

Classic Gazza – and there’s more where that came from…

On Tuesday, June 8, talkSPORT brings you ‘Gazza & McCoist: Together Again’ – a brilliant exclusive as Ally McCoist spends an hour in conversation with his former Rangers teammate, and opponent at Euro 96, Paul Gascoigne to look back on their careers for club and country.





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