We’re now fewer than 50 days from the start of Euro 2020 and Phil Foden has become the latest England player tipped to become the new Paul Gascoigne.
Jamie O’Hara (sorry) thinks he’s even better. Here’s a list of the Gazzas since Gazza who have turned out not be Gazza, along with a few who still might. According to Transfermarkt, Gascoigne notched ten goals and five assists in 57 games for England.
Kevin Keegan (2000): “I put him [Cole] first because there is a shortage of that type of player. He’s a Gascoigne-type player. He can make things happen, hold things up, let the ball run. Sometimes you look at him and think, ‘How do you do that?’ and then you realise it’s just talent and feeling. What he can do is tremendous.”
Despite being called up by Keegan, Cole made his England debut under Sven-Goran Eriksson in May 2001 before really thriving under the Swedish boss in the 2006 World Cup and the lead-up to it, notching four goals and seven assists in a 16-game run, including that wondergoal against Sweden. How far could he have gone if he hadn’t been wasted?
Apparently oblivious to any concern in bracketing Wayne Rooney with Paul Gascoigne ahead of Euro 2004, England’s players took the Gazza moniker and adapted it in the teenager’s honour by dubbing him Wazza.
The position was different but the skill, aggressiveness and pure passion on the field, the misdemeanours off it and the fact that Rooney was England’s great white hope ahead of that tournament and many after made this particular comparison an easy but fair one.
Wayne Rooney (2013): “I would dream of doing stuff the way he [Gascoigne] did, the way he ran with the ball. Probably the closest thing I’ve seen to Gazza is Jack Wilshere, where he gets the ball and runs at players a lot quicker and a lot stronger than people realise.”
No, you’re more like Gazza, Wazza. No, you are, Jazza(?).
Rooney’s attempt to pass the Gascoigne torch to Wilshere came at around the same time as David Lacey was likening the Arsenal prodigy to the same man.
He wrote in The Guardian: ‘After his outstanding contribution to England’s rare victory over Brazil in Wednesday’s friendly at Wembley, Jack Wilshere is already being hailed as another Paul Gascoigne. Surely Wilshere will not be that unlucky. He may be blessed with Gascoigne’s talent but nobody would want to burden him with the latter’s torment.’
Wilshere certainly hasn’t been lucky and though his torment has been very different to Gascoigne’s, torment it has been.
Sir Alex Ferguson (2016): “He is probably the best young midfielder I have seen in many years. Probably going back as far as Gascoigne.”
A penny for Paul Scholes’ thoughts then; another for Dele Alli’s now. Ouch.
Roberto Martinez (2014): “Sometimes I am looking at him and he does things that remind you of Michael Ballack; at times it’s Paul Gascoigne.”
Roy Hodgson (2014): “He’s got great potential as an impact player. He’s a magnificent runner with the ball. In terms of being able to run with the ball with pace and power, you could compare him to Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne was a powerful player, powerful runner with the ball, once he set off and went by people they didn’t catch him. Ross Barkley is the same.”
This was just two of many quotes from managers and pundits comparing Barkley to Gascoigne – it was perhaps the most persistent of anyone on this list. And to be fair to Barkley he performed well for England as recently as the Euro 2020 qualifiers, scoring four goals and claiming three assists in his last five starts. We would, however, be a tad surprised if he gets another opportunity. There are now many, many better options.
Stan Collymore (2019): “We still desperately need a player who can run with the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the opponents’ box next summer. A Paul Gascoigne-type figure. The one man who can do it is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.”
Big Stan then quickly claimed he wasn’t comparing the Ox to Gazza – presumably recognising what a ridiculous comparison it is – despite definitely comparing the Ox to Gazza. Fortunately, since Collymore made the statement, players have emerged who can do exactly what the former Villan covets for England. See Mason Mount and below…
Bryan Robson (November, 2020): “Grealish is always on the front foot, always looking to create. It’s what Gazza loved doing, using his ability to go past defenders on both sides, scoring great goals, pleasing the crowd. And some of Grealish’s goals have been outstanding. You can see that, just like Gazza, he loves what he’s doing in being able to manipulate the ball. Grealish has got that natural ability the same as Gazza. It’s what sets them apart from the rest.”
The crowd-pleasing aspect is very true. Grealish, like Gascoigne, plays football like the entertainment it’s supposed to be, the sort of character that can harness the emotion of a nation at a major tournament. If ‘it’s coming home’, it would delightful if Grealish was the one to bring it.
Shearer (January, 2021): “The way he handles the ball, his body position, his ability to pass it to the forwards, he’s so comfortable on the ball, the way he receives the ball, he can score goals. I mentioned those two midfielders – Gazza – the way he (Foden) glides, his close control, left foot, right foot. We don’t mention the word ‘potential’ anymore because we’re seeing this on a regular basis now. He’s an incredible player. Forget about saying, ‘putting too much pressure on him’, he’s on the biggest stage now and he’s delivering.”
That last point, about dealing with pressure, will perhaps give Foden more of a chance than Grealish this summer: Gareth Southgate is more likely to pick a player used to the very highest stage and performing so faultlessly on it. He has already played a big part in what looks like a Premier League title win for Manchester City and will surely have a similar role should they go all the way in the Champions League. An international trophy to boot? Why not? He’s 20.
Emile Smith Rowe
Emmanuel Petit (April, 2021): “The way Smith-Rowe plays really reminds me of Paul Gascoigne. I like his behaviour on and off the pitch.”
A few things to unpick from the Arsenal legend here. Firstly, and this may have slipped through the net due to the next point, is he really anything like Gascoigne? But then, that same question could be asked of pretty much anyone on this list. Moving on…
Are those two sentences meant as completely separate points or is there a relationship between the two? A full stop rather than a colon suggests the former, but that was a decision made by the transcriber. If it’s the latter, we are fascinated as to what Petit knows about Smith Rowe’s off-pitch antics that we don’t.