27th May – Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne is one of the greatest players England have ever produced and in terms of natural talent not many have even come close.

He provided so many good memories for football fans in the 90s ranging from his impressive World Cup showing at Italia 90 to that goal against Scotland at Euro 96. Although he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons since his retirement it should not be this that he is remembered for as he was a wonderful player.

Gazza started his career at Newcastle United and was a special talent from an early age as he captained the youth team as they won the Youth Cup in 1985 with him scoring twice in the final. He was soon quickly promoted to the first team and Jack Charlton gave him his debut on the 13th April 1985 against QPR. But it was Willie McFaul that gave him his first start on the opening day of the new season. He scored his first goal a few weeks later against Oxford United and impressed for the entire season, scoring another eight goals.
Soccer - Today League Division One - Newcastle United Photocall
Newcastle struggled in the next season but Gazza still managed to score five times in 24 league games and was vital in helping the club avoid relegation. The season after though was his best personally, as he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and was in the PFA Team of the Year and in the summer he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record of £2.2 million.

In his first season he scored seven times in 37 league games and helped the club reach sixth place. They then rose to the third place the season after and he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990 and also Tottenham’s Player of the Year. In the 1990-91 season he played a key part in helping the club win the FA Cup as he scored six times in the competition, including one against Arsenal in the semi final. However, an injury in the final meant that he would miss the entire 1991-92 season.
Gazza Spurs
Lazio had already agreed a deal to sign the midfielder and they eventually got their man for £5.5 million. He was loved by the Lazio fans because he scored an 89th minute equaliser against fierce rivals Roma but he did have a tough time in Italy and did not settle well. Despite this he helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in 16 years. Over the next two seasons he struggled with injuries and in July 1995 he joined Rangers for £4.3 million.

And he once again became a club legend by scoring in the Old Firm Derby, it was an extraordinary goal as he ran almost the full length of the pitch before scoring. Rangers won the league that season and he scored a hatrick against Aberdeen to clinch the title. They also went on to win the Scottish Cup and Gascoigne finished the season with 19 goals.
Gazza Rangers
Rangers won the title again in the 1996-97 season and Gascoigne scored hatricks against Kilmarnock and Motherwell and finished the year with an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances. He also scored twice in the League Cup final victory over Hearts. His last season at the club was less successful as Rangers lost their title and didn’t win their single trophy which led to the player moving back to England, this time joining Middlesbrough for £3.45 million.

It started well for him as he helped them get promotion back to the Premier League and was then even more impressive in helping them finish sixth in their first season back but unfortunately his form did not last and he eventually left the club and joined Everton.

He started well but only played 32 league games for the club, scoring one goal which turned out to be his last in England away to Bolton Wanderers. He left the club in March 2002 and ended the season at Burnley where he made six appearances but they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and he left after just two months. Gascoigne then had a short spell in China playing for Gansu Tianma and started off well by scoring twice in his first four games but troubles off the pitch meant he had to leave. His last club was League Two Boston United but after only playing five times in three months he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson who has admitted he wished he signed the player. “He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton. He was the best player of his era, a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile.”

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8th May – Jack Charlton

English World Cup winners and one club men are few and far between but today marks the birthday of someone that fits into both categories.

Jack Charlton helped England win the World Cup in 1966 and spent all of his playing days at Leeds United where he also had a lot of success. But it could have been so different for the older Charlton brother as he had at first rejected the chance to play for Leeds and then another opportunity at the club clashed with an interview to become a policeman. Charlton decided to go to the trial and was given a contract.
Charlton England
He made his debut on 25th April 1953 against Doncaster Rovers in a 1-1 draw and he would have played more in the following years if he did not have to serve two years National Service but he returned to the team in 1955 and became a regular as the team gained promotion to the top flight. The next few years were tougher for the player and the club with a relegation and a number of managerial changes. Charlton almost left the club on several occasions but the 1962-63 season was the start of an almost decade long defensive line up which included Charlton and Don Revie was getting the club back to where they belonged, challenging for top honours. They were promoted to the First Division as champions in the 1963-64 season and made an immediate impact by going on a 25 match unbeaten run and almost winning the title.

After coming close in many different competitions in 1968 they finally won a major cup by beating Arsenal in the League Cup 1-0 and then followed this up with their first European trophy the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. A season later Charlton helped Leeds to their first ever Football League title with the team only losing two games all season. In his penultimate season as a player he finally clinched the one trophy that had been missing from his collection by beating Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup final
Charlton Leeds
After being limited to 25 appearances and the signing of Gordon McQueen, Charlton decided to retire but he wanted to become a manager. In 2006 he was voted into Leeds United’s greatest XI.

On his 38th birthday he was given the Middlesbrough job. Strangely he never signed a contract and accepted lower wage demands but he did have a gentleman’s agreement in place that he could not be sacked.

It did not take him long to be successful as he won promotion for Division Two with seven games left to play and became the first manager outside of the top flight to be named Manager of the Year. He managed to keep the team in the league for a number of seasons but there was unrest in the boardroom and the board voted to sack him, however the chairman stepped in and overruled the decision. He did eventually leave the club at the end of the 1976-77 season.

His next job was at bottom of the Third Division Sheffield Wednesday and he turned them round completely and won promotion in his third season at the club. In the 1982-83 season he took the club to the top of the table unfortunately injuries struck and they slid down the table, finally finishing sixth. His greatest moment as Wednesday manager is still sang by their fans to this day as he was in charge when they beat arch rivals Sheffield United 4-0 which is known as the Boxing Day Massacre.

Charlton then went back to his native North East and first managed Middlesbrough again as a favour to the chairman and kept them in the Second Division after it looked like they were going down and then in 1984 he became Newcastle United manager. He only lasted one season but he did have to use a lot of young players and it was a difficult situation.

On the international he was also successful as a player and a manager, winning the World Cup in 1966 and then managing Ireland to their first ever World Cup in 1990, where they reached the quarter finals.
Charlton Ireland
The last word can go to his former Leeds United teammate Johnny Giles. “Jack turned it round for himself once he got his attitude right, he was outstanding: always competing and getting his foot in when it mattered. His contribution in the promotion season was vital; it was the start of something good for both him and the club