Gary Lineker is an England Footballing Legend who won 80 caps for England. He won the Golden Boot at the ’86 World Cup and scored 48 goals . Yet the thing he is most remembered for is the time someone else was booked and Gary made a face at the manager Bobby Robson.
It was 1990 and Gary’s England team had reached the semi-final of the World Cup. The team contained the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation – Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne – who could do just about anything with a football. He had instant control, quick feet that could take him past players combined with the vision and touch to make defence-splitting passes.
Gazza had been booked earlier in the tournament and if he was booked again he would miss the final if England won. Inevitably he was booked for a rash tackle. He describes what happened in his autobiography:
“I straightened up and turned to the ref, he’s gone for his pocket. 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.”
I remember seeing that moment on TV. I was on holiday in Morecambe. My family was staying in a crappy B&B and we had all crowded round a tiny TV. I couldn’t understand why Gazza was being booked. He was my favourite player – surely the ref knew that?!
The next day every paper had the picture of Gazza crying. Everyone in the country even if they were uninterested in football now knew who Gazza was. It was the start of Gazzamania. Gazza was everywhere.
There was the spitting image parody…
There was the wax model at Madame Tussaud’s…
By the end of the year he’d switched on the Christmas lights in London’s Regent Street. He was overwhelmingly voted winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He had his own board game. He released a hit single ‘Fog On The Tyne’. Terry Wogan on his chat show introduced Gazza as “literally the most famous and probably the most popular man in Britain today”. He was even hired by the disgraced jeweller Gerald Ratner – a man who had called his own products “crap.” He got Gazza to appear in advertisements saying the jewellery was “world-class stuff, man.”
It wasn’t just off the pitch that things were going well. In the FA Cup Gazza inspired an average Tottenham Hotspur side to wins over Portsmouth and Notts County. In the semi-final against Arsenal he scored with an audacious 35 yard free-kick. It was his sixth goal in Tottenham’s five matches of the competition. His manager Terry Venables called it “the finest free-kick in the Cup’s history”.
All good things must come to an end though and so it was – Gazzamania ended 15 minutes into the FA Cup final when he severely injuring himself launching into a crazy uncontrolled foul. He collected a winner’s medal in his hospital bed but wouldn’t play again for a year.
The greatest compliment I can give him is that my favourite memory is when he scored a hat trick for Ranger v Aberdeen in a Scottish league decider. The quality of his goals and the joy on his face that day made me forget I support Celtic!
It’s now 25 years since that Semi Final and the manager, Sir Bobby Robson, is no longer with us. It’s fitting that the greatest tribute to him came from Gazza.
“To Sir Bobby from Daft as a Brush
When I was 12 I met a man called Bobby,
It was in Ipswich in a lobby,
At first I seen him he just smiled with such glee,
I knew he was the man for me,
He was a great man,
Even better than Peter Pan,
He looked after me for so many years,
He was like a tree with the fruit of the pears,
I know he’s above,
And I’ll always be his son like the feathers of a dove,
He has now passed away,
But every night I say a little pray,
For the great man Sir Bobby he will be missed,
I’ve kept okay and hope not to get p****d
I will never forget you for as long as I live,
You gave me a chance,
I started to bounce,
There are no rules for loving and sharing,
But hearts beat faster when someone is caring.
After reading that that it would take a cold heart not to shed a little tear.