Exclusive: ‘Behind the Gazza antics’

by | Oct 11, 2018 07:45

After writing the definitive book about Paul Gascoigne’s time at Lazio, author Daniel Storey spoke to Football Italia correspondent Richard Hall about the “majestically talented and deeply flawed” icon.

You can read our review of the book ‘Gazza in Italy’ here.

What was the main reason or the moment that you decided you had to write about Paul Gascoigne?

After writing the definitive book about Paul Gascoigne’s time at Lazio, author Daniel Storey spoke to Football Italia correspondent Richard Hall about the “majestically talented and deeply flawed” icon.

You can read our review of the book ‘Gazza in Italy’ here.

What was the main reason or the moment that you decided you had to write about Paul Gascoigne?

It was a joint decision between me and the publishers. HarperCollins had the idea to do a book – and potentially series of books – that were released as audiobooks as well as hard copies, specifically designed to be around 30,000 words long. 

We wanted to choose a snapshot in time of a cult player, and Gascoigne's move to Italy seemed to be the perfect muse. Due to the sheer time passed since the early 1990s, and the lack of blanket coverage of his spell, we felt that there were a treasure trove of insights and anecdotes that we could call upon.

As someone who grew up with Football Italia and was ten years old at the time of Euro '96, Gascoigne had always been a hero, but writing his portrait for my ‘Portrait of an Icon’ book in 2017, it became pretty clear that the English public have a slightly twisted – or perhaps mis-sold – vision of Gascoigne. 

You have managed brilliantly not to enforce opinions about 'Gazza' but instead service the reader with enough information to form their own. How hard is it to write about Gascoigne as its impossible to separate the brilliance and the issues?

The one thing I absolutely didn't want the book to be was salacious – that does neither him nor me a satisfactory service. Mention the name to most non-football people and they will remark about Gascoigne's off-field antics, but they are told with a laugh and smile.

I didn't understand that. I don't see how you can witness just how corrosive Gascoigne's mental health issues have been and then chuckle at these apparent antics. One is a symptom of the other.

I wanted to try and present Gascoigne as all I perceive him to have been and still be: Majestically talented and deeply flawed, a victim of football culture, society's lack of awareness of mental health issues and a lack of adequate support network. Only by doing that do I think it's possible to take joy from his on-field brilliance.

Whilst reading this, I asked myself 'what if' about Gazza so many times. I know you come to a conclusion in the book, but how many times did you think, if Gazza did this, listened to him or didn't do that? 

The honest – and obvious – answer is that I have no idea. My conclusion in the book is that Gascoigne's mental health issues, exacerbated by the climate into which he was placed, made it impossible for him to swim. But that's just a personal take.

The one thing I do certainly think is that the FA Cup Final injury and subsequent setbacks made things incredibly difficult, much more than he needed. Losing the support network of Glenn Roeder in Rome and having that move delayed for so long only increased the pressure on Gascoigne, and that's without mentioning the physical limitations it placed upon him. From that point on he was playing catch-up.

You make the point about the timing of Gazza's arrival, the situation the club was in at the time and the relationship with the fans thereafter. Do you think that any big name signing at that time, would be remembered on a similar level if they had come in for big money or was it more so because the fans related to Paul himself that he is so revered?

Lazio supporters were waiting for a hero, but there were players who had a far greater impact than him during his time at the club. Gascoigne is remembered so fondly for who he was, not what he was. 

In Italian football, cult heroes are usually the players who commit themselves entirely to a game and club – think Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti. The professionalism within the Italian game, far ahead of England in the 1990s, made Gascoigne stick out. 

Here was a hero who didn't just wear the shirt on the Saturday afternoon, but partied with fans all through Saturday night. It is a cliché, but Gascoigne really was 'one of the them'.

What was the best Gazza story you came across? The ones including Dino Zoff are superb.

Given what I have said previously, my favourite does not involve 'antics', but a quote from teammate Beppe Signori.

"No one could ever dislike Paul. He was so generous," said Signori, who is still a friend of Gascoigne today. "If you ever said, 'Gazza, what a beautiful watch, where did you buy it?', he would take it off and give it to you."

That example is not merely metaphorical. Gascoigne would regularly give away possessions or gifts he had received to younger members of the first-team squad. That sort of behaviour, almost unique in football, I think epitomises the simple generosity and kindness of the man.

Just how offended were the Italian people by his burping into a microphone and talking about Cragnotti's daughter’s breasts… In general, did the Italians find all this laddishness cute or was it frowned upon? Was it a case of 'loved by the Curva and hated by polite society?

Italian football in general and Lazio in particular remember Gascoigne in very different ways. He is renowned as a wasted talent, a flop even, who Italian football never saw the best of. 

Gascoigne's behaviour clearly played a large role in that. Italian society is built on respect for seniority, but Gascoigne had no concept of that. It was not that he was being deliberately rude, just that he acted on the pitch in exactly the same way as he acted off it: pure instinct. He knew no different. No second gear, no filter. 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Club by Club News

 NEWS

RELATED POSTS