Gazza made headlines wherever he went...

Wednesday:Gazza; (BBC Two, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 5:00 pm
Paul Gascoigne celebrating his penalty versus Spain at Euro 96
Paul Gascoigne celebrating his penalty versus Spain at Euro 96

Former England manager Bobby Robson famously described him as “daft as a brush”, while Gary Lineker has said he is “the most naturally gifted technical footballer that I played with”.

Regardless of your opinion of Paul Gascoigne, as a player or a person, you can’t argue that he is a one of a kind.

A larger-than-life character on and off the pitch, Gazza made headlines wherever he went. He had a mercurial talent that graced the books of Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Lazio, Rangers, Middlesbrough and Everton, and was a proud Englishman that earned 57 caps for his country.

Those international outings included his infamous tears during the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Turin and his stunning individual goal against Scotland at Wembley during Euro 96. The enigmatic midfielder hung up his boots in 2004, but he remains a popular topic of conversation.

This two-part documentary delves into the iconic and controversial player’s rise to fame, from his time as the face of 1990s Britain to his battle with addiction.

Gazza chronicles 20 years of modern British history, told via archive footage accompanied by contemporary narration, which also offers a startling new perspective on the profoundly amoral and illegal lengths the Press went to in order to gain access to his private life, and manipulate it for their own gain.

Marrying seminal footballing action and cultural moments from the time, with never-before-seen archive and personal home videos, this powerful series provides a unique and personal insight into Paul’s life.

The star says: “This is the real story of my time in football – the good and the bad of who I am – and what really happened around me. So much of this has never been seen before. It feels good to be telling my side of the story.”

After covering his upbringing and background, we pick up the story in 1988, when Gascoigne was a shining light in English footballA lovable young Geordie from a working-class background, his broad smile and extravagant skills are an antidote to the hooliganism that has beset the game over the previous decade.

When he moves from Newcastle to London to join Terry Venables’ Spurs for a British record transfer fee in July, it pushes him into the national spotlight.

Gazza is perfect for a British tabloid Press in the midst of the circulation war between Rupert Murdoch’s News International and Robert Maxwell’s Mirror Group.

He is the best young footballer in the country and he courts attention with his naïve behaviour, love of alcohol and desire to be ‘one of the lads’.

At Italia 90, a Gazza-inspired England team reach the semi-finals, where they meet old rivals West Germany.

It is here that Gazza becomes an icon, when a rash tackle leads to a booking and he breaks down in tears at the realisation that it will rule him out of the final if England get there.

England go on to lose on penalties, but those tears of vulnerability in defeat propel him into the heart of the nation.

Gazzamania is born, as The Sun signs him up, and his advisors seek to maximise the commercial possibilities.

However, those close to Gazza worry about his ability to deal with the intense media attention.

He finds it increasingly hard to cope, exploding during the 1991 FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest, and rupturing his knee ligaments.