LONDON. — Paul Gasciogne feared no one when he set foot on football’s greatest stage at the 1990 World Cup.
The England legend reveals all about his Italian Job in Harry Harris’ new book, Italia 90 Revisited — The Players’ Stories, available from Empire Publications.
Here, Gazza gives his account of that memorable summer…
WHEN I see clips of Italia 90 I feel great, then immediately sad.
It was the best time of my life. I loved it, I loved it from the moment I got on that plane.
Nothing fazed me, I wanted to be in the World Cup, every player’s dream. But it felt like I was going on holiday — I was playing tennis, table tennis. I loved every minute of it.
My greatest memory of Italia 90 is getting on the plane and feeling the excitement.
It doesn’t feel like 30 years ago. When those clips come up on TV it feels like yesterday. But then I’m upset and try not to think about Italia 90.
The best time of my life, yes, but how I miss it.
I miss it so much because I never got to experience it again — and that’s why it makes me feel so sad after feeling so good watching it back on TV.
I loved it, just loved it, but I treated it like I had treated going to a youth cup tournament.
It was a holiday. I played tennis, spent time by the pool, I was on the pedal boats.
The football didn’t worry me. I didn’t care who we were playing, what anyone said about the opposition, I knew I could get the better of them.
I was full of confidence, not interested in the tactics, who their best player was, or who would be marking me.
All I was interested in was in winning those games and doing my best for the team to achieve it.
Of course, playing tennis at one in the morning before the World Cup semi- final didn’t go down too well with the gaffer.
I was on the court and I could hear this gruff voice shouting, “Gazza, Gazza”. I thought, ‘F***, I’m in trouble now’.
Bobby Robson would knock on my door if he thought I was up too late playing tennis.
I would tell Chris Waddle, as I roomed with him, that if he heard a knock on the door, it was sure to be Bobby Robson and to tell him I’m asleep.
Sure enough, there was a knock on the door. “Gazza, where is he?” Chris would reply, “He’s sleeping, boss”.
“Sleeping, sleeping? I’ve been told he’s been playing tennis for the last two hours!”
Bobby Robson told me before the semi-final with West Germany that I would be up against Lothar Matthaus, the best midfielder in the world.
I told him, “Sorry, you are wrong there, gaffer… I’m the best in the world”. And I was determined to go out and prove it — and I did.
Before that semi-final, the president of Juventus stopped me in the stadium and said he wanted to sign me after the game — it was minutes before I was about to go and get ready to play.
He said I should first sign for Roma to learn the language and settle into the Italian way of life, then he would sign me from Roma.
He wanted to speak to me after the game but I didn’t speak to him.
As for the tears, you know I didn’t touch the German — and the ref said to me he wouldn’t have booked me if he had known I’d already been booked.
I cried, but not because I was missing the final as everyone thinks.
I cried because I felt I had let down the fans, my team-mates, the manager, everybody.
I cried because I thought it was the end of my career, that I would never have another chance to play in a team like that, on the world stage, with and also against such world-class footballers. — The Sun.