Gosh, Gazza at Goodison, no really…
Liverpool got a great signing recently when Paul Gasgoigne penned a two-year deal with Everton. Walter Smith must have lost it completely to think that Gazza can influence a Premier League game more than three years after his last performance of any note. (from a soccer playing point of view, that is). At least that’s the obvious argument just as we all thought Gazza would follow the mighty dollar to Australia or the USA via the MLS. He would have been welcomed and probably adored there while being given a fair chance to influence games that he may well have been able to influence.
That will not be the case at Goodison Park where a huge proportion of the fans will be waiting for his failure and will not forgive him any screw-ups along the way. They will have no room to suffer his huffing and puffing, either physically or mentally. They will have no room for flying elbows or other outbursts in what will be an emotionally charged cauldron. However, it looks as if Gazza’s ego has won out over his proven ability and he is of the opinion that he can handle the pressure and deliver performances worthy of the highest stage.
Walter Smith has put his job on the line like no other manager before him and handed Gascoigne yet another lifeline. If Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough has had enough of him, I really have to doubt Smith’s ability to produce better results. Robbo was a great supporter of the wayward one through the years and while Gazza may be more “afraid” of Smith, it will all inevitably come down to his ability to motivate himself to deliver his best. I see this as not a courageous decision, but a huge gamble that could easily see both Smith and Gascoigne far away from Goodison Park before Christmas.
Obviously, Gascoigne was a talented player once, who delivered on his potential in a very unpredictable and inconsistent fashion, even at his best. His indiscretions, weaknesses and inability to play for 90 minutes in a true British fashion were all overshadowed by occasional sparks of genius and short lived gemstones of play that perpetuated an “Come back Gazza, all is forgiven” approach. He was arguably the best-known footballer in the world not too many years ago, perhaps even the best player in England for a period. But he was also the greatest waste of talent of his generation and history will mean very little to Everton’s quest for Premiership points in 2000/2001. It is ironic that a player who has been transferred for millions several times in his career can actually beg the question: Is he worth the free transfer?
Everton have lost John Collins and Nick Barmby from their midfield and so the stage is set. There is lots of room for Gazza to slot into the team, lots of room for him to influence, and the world will watch and wait. Presumably, Smith has an idea of how to cover his weaknesses and give him the opportunity to shine. And will short passages of effort be enough for Gazza to keep his place. I think he should have learned the Aussie rules and spared us round fifteen of a contest that should have been stopped in the ninth.