There are few more iconic moments in football history than the sight of Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne in tears in an England shirt.
The setting was, of course, the semi-final of the World Cup in Turin, where Gazza was having the game of his life for England against West Germany. With the game entering extra-time with the scores locked at 1-1, Gazza, ever enthusiastic, overreached for a tackle in the 98th minute, bringing down Thomas Berthold. The referee reached for his pocket and showed him a yellow card - a second booking of the tournament which meant that he would be suspended for the final, should England get there.
Gazza has previously spoken about the incident, saying in his book Glorious: My World, Football and Me:
“Suddenly I can’t hear anything. The world just stops apart from the bloke in black. My eyes follow his hand, to the pocket, then out with the card. There it is, raised above my head. I looked at the crowd, I looked at Lineker, and I couldn’t hold it back. At that moment I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone. My bottom lip was like a helicopter pad. I was devastated.”
“My heart sank the moment the referee took out the yellow card,” said Bobby Robson, the legendary manager who managed England between 1982 and 1990, bowing out after the eventual penalty shoot-out defeat.
“My heart hit my shoes. Because I realised instantly, that was the final for Paul Gascoigne, out. And that’s a tragedy - for him, me, the team, the country, the whole of football. Because he was so good, and he was superb in this particular match. The bigger the game, the better he got.
Now, this incident, and Gazza’s special relationship with Sir Bobby Robson, are explored further in the brilliant new documentary Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager.
In comments which come from the full transcripts from the interviews conducted for the film, and seen exclusively by ShortList, Gazza explains how Sir Bobby had him in his sights from very early on.
“When I played for the Under-19s, I remember he came in and said one day you will play for England if you keep off the Mars bars! That was his words to us… keep off the Mars bars, lose some weight [and] I will pick you for England.”
Three years later, he was selected to play against the Czech Republic at Wembley, only his second start for the Three Lions.
“[Bobby] said this is your chance against Czech Republic. Play well and I’m gonna pick you for the World Cup. I set up three and scored one, and I always remember [wags finger imitating Bobby] - ‘That was fantastic!’”
This nailed down his spot for Italia ‘90, and he grew more influential as the tournament progressed.
In another interview, also for the Bobby Robson documentary, teammate Gary Lineker explained the relationship between Bobby Robson and the young prodigy.
“The relationship between Bobby and Gazza was extraordinary in many ways. It was like a father and son but a very frustrated father a lot of the time! He used to absolutely take Bobby to his wits’ end a lot of the time. They had that kind of lovely father and son relationship that was a lot of joy and a lot of love but also a lot of tellings off!
“Gazza was a young maverick, but what Bobby saw in him was what he could give to the team and what ability he had. It was worth the risk because to go and do well at a World Cup you need something a little bit different; something above the normal, and Bobby knew that - and Gazza did provide that.
“For Gazza, Bobby was a father figure; Gazza wanted Bobby to love him, he needed to be the centre of attention.
“Before the semi-final against Germany he was on the tennis court playing some Germans in tennis - two sets - and Bobby had to drag him off the court, saying ‘we’ve got a game man!’”
And so it was that in that semi-final, disaster struck for Gazza.
“When I was crying, when I got booked, it wasn’t cos I was gonna miss the final - it was cos I loved it so much I thought it was the end of my career.
“But Sir Bobby just went [at the end of the game]: ‘You’ve done yourself, you’ve done your family proud, you’ve done the country proud - be proud of yourself.”
The pair would go their separate ways in footballing terms, with Sir Bobby moving first to PSV Eindhoven, before moving on to Porto, Barcelona and, finally, settling at Newcastle where he stayed from 1999 to 2004. Meanwhile Gazza continued playing for Spurs before a big-money move to Lazio in 1992, but the pair would keep their special bond all the way until Robson’s death in 2009.
“What he achieved in his career he never bragged about it. He enjoyed life; he hung in and hung in and hung in.
“Sir Bobby… I get emotional every time. I get these flashbacks… how much the guy loved us.
“Not being funny, I’ve had my troubles, bad ways in my life… Sir Bobby Robson was on the phone twice a week: ‘Are you OK? Do you want help? Where are you, can I come see you?
“So I often met him, had a coffee with him and that.
“Sir Bobby was different, the guy that could have done anything - to spend his [time] worrying about me was so, so unbelievable.
“You talk about father figure - the guy was phenomenal for me.”
Of course, no mention of their relationship can be complete without the infamous pranks and jokes that the ‘daft as a brush’ Gazza would play on Robson.
And Gascoigne shares one new anecdote about a night he decided to wind up Sir Bobby with the help of Bobby’s wife, Lady Elsie.
“Sir Bobby - probably like Jack Charlton - was a tight fuck, tight as fuck! I did an auction for him once right; I was next to Elsie - I went ‘Elsie, wind him up!’
“So [there was an] auction for a car. Elsie put her hand up and went £2,000 and he went ‘put your hand down!’
“So I went Elsie, keep on going, and me and Elsie had the auction going right til £9,000 for a fucking car!
“He went ‘I ain’t got the money for this, I ain’t got the money’ - somebody else bought it and he went ‘Gazza thank God for that, I needed that money!!”
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager coming to select theatres 1st June
Now available to pre-order, Digital Download 1st June & Blu-Ray/DVD 4th June