It has been 25 years but Paul Gascoigne is back on the ground, with arms wide, head up and Jamie Redknapp standing over him. June 15, 1996 was the last time this happened, after Gazza scored a goal that only he could.
With his left foot, he flicked the ball over Colin Hendry. With his right, he volleyed beyond Andy Goram. It’s England 2, Scotland 0 and Wembley has erupted. That goal, and the subsequent dentist’s chair celebration, was recently voted the most memorable moment in Euros football history.
In the first of an exclusive two-part interview, Sportsmail meets the inimitable Gazza to talk all things Euro 96 and that infamous pre-tournament trip to China and Hong Kong. Kieran Gill listened in.
Sportsmail’s Jamie Redknapp caught up with Paul Gascoigne about England’s Euro 96 exploits
Gascoigne shone for England at the Euros following a build-up which was somewhat marred
GASCOIGNE: The laugh we had, the confidence, the togetherness. We’d be on the bus on the way to games singing that song. ‘It’s coming home.’ When yous lot got off the bus, I’d wait. I’d play the song again. Then I’d say, ‘Right then, I’m f***ing ready’.
REDKNAPP: Nobody really remembers that warm-up win against China, Gaz, but I do. Terry Venables started me and you in midfield and said to us afterwards, ‘You two were brilliant’. Do you know why? It was because whenever I got the ball, I gave it to you. That was my game-plan. You never shied away from wanting the ball.
GASCOIGNE: Never. In training, Venables would give me the ball and say, ‘Take these five guys on’. I’d do it. That was me getting fit.
REDKNAPP: We beat China 3-0, then a Hong Kong XI 1-0, and the manager tells us we can do whatever we want to relax. Oh boy. What are your recollections of that night, Gaz?
GASCOIGNE: It was my 29th birthday so I thought, ‘Right, f*** this, I’m going out’. So I remember going out to buy some Doc Martens, a big cigar, a bottle of champagne and then walking into the restaurant where all of yous were.
REDKNAPP: Then we head to the China Jump nightclub and you spot the dentist’s chair. All of us had a go, but the person behind the bar decided to take some pictures and sell them. At the time I remember thinking, ‘What a result’, because my dad would’ve killed me if I’d been snapped in that chair. Now I wish I had a snap of it, for old time’s sake!
GASCOIGNE: I only went for a f***ing filling! But that was a class night.
Gascoigne’s famous dentist’s chair celebration against Scotland still lives long in the memory
Redknapp recreates the iconic celebration with his former England team-mate Gascoigne
Pictures of that night out made it on to the front page of the Sun. They splashed with the headline, ‘DISGRACEFOOL’, after supposedly paying handsomely for snaps of Gascoigne and Co in shirts that had been ripped to shreds.
The England players’ high jinks didn’t end there. On flight CX251 home to London, two television screens were smashed on the upper deck of the plane which the squad had to themselves.
The airline, Cathay Pacific, demanded the FA pay them £5,000 for the damage. The squad took ‘collective responsibility’. Here’s what really happened…
REDKNAPP: Do you remember why you got the hump on the plane, Gaz?
GASCOIGNE: Did Alan Shearer smack me in the face?
REDKNAPP: You’d fallen asleep, so me and Robbie Fowler got the razor out and we shaved off your eyebrows. You woke up because you heard us all laughing.
Then you found out why and some screens got smashed while you tried to find out who was responsible! To be honest, because you were so fair-haired, you couldn’t even tell your eyebrows were gone!
GASCOIGNE: We had a laugh. The newspapers slaughtered us for all of that, but that only brought us closer together.
REDKNAPP: It’s funny you mention the newspapers, Gaz, because you stitched us up! They were trying to find out who was responsible for those smashed screens, so you decided to tell them, ‘It was the three Scousers’.
They were saying it was me, Robbie and Steve McManaman. Reporters turned up at my house! I asked them why they thought it was me. They went, ‘Gazza said…’ Thanks for that!
GASCOIGNE: (laughs) I remember Dennis Wise getting put in the overhead luggage locker, too. After all of that, I knew I was in trouble, so I went to Wales to hide for a couple of days, then I went to a health farm, and I knew I was ready for the tournament.
Redknapp and Gascoigne chat during their playing days together for the Three Lions
England’s opening group game ends in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Switzerland. Afterwards, Venables again tells the players that they can do whatever they want to relax…
REDKNAPP: I go to Essex to see young Frank (Lampard) and we decide to go to Faces nightclub. I have no idea what made me think that was a good idea midway through a tournament.
When I get there, Teddy Sheringham and Sol Campbell are there, too. That’s on the Saturday night. Nothing silly happened. No dentist’s chairs. Just a few drinks.
Then Terry calls me on the Sunday, ‘What are you playing at?’ Me, Teddy and Sol made the front page of the newspapers all over again. I honestly thought Terry was going to kick us out of the squad. Do you remember where you went?
GASCOIGNE: I went to see Rod Stewart! Walking up a street, I said, ‘Come on, Rod, let’s go to the pub, I need a f***ing drink’. He opens up his jacket and pulls out a bottle of vodka. I go, ‘Cheers mate!’ Then we go to the pub and he goes on the karaoke!
REDKNAPP: I bet you were secretly jealous that me, Teddy and Sol stole your front page! The Press were relentless with you. But after that Scotland game, you were loved.
GASCOIGNE: I blanked the Press. I knew what I could do on the pitch. It didn’t bother me. Not at all. When I went to Lazio, it was the same.
REDKNAPP: They hounded you, but you had that ‘rascal gene’, I like to call it.
GASCOIGNE: I definitely did. I remember how Venables used to record the training sessions so he had this big crane behind the goal. Massive it was and there was a guy up there, about 50ft off the ground, with his camera looking down. So I took the keys and f***ed off to the hotel.
REDKNAPP: Poor fella! He’s still there now, Gaz.
Terry Venables’ England side got off to a shaky start at Euro 96 but they soon came to life
Game two, and Scotland are the visitors to Wembley. You know what happens next…
REDKNAPP: The day before we face Scotland, you tell us, ‘I’m scoring tomorrow and when I do, I’m gonna do the dentist’s chair, so whoever is on the pitch, get over to me, fast’. (Gazza bursts out laughing). So talk me through that goal, Gaz.
GASCOIGNE: I knew it was coming over and I had a tiny glance at Colin Hendry. If he’d stopped, I would’ve brought the ball down and still f***ing beat him. But the way he was coming at me, I just knew I had him by the b****cks. I flicked it over his head and volleyed.
REDKNAPP: You make it sound so easy but you flicked it over with your left foot then volleyed in with your right. Bang. That was unbelievable to us mere mortals.
I spoke to Ally McCoist about this goal the other day. You and Ally were Rangers team-mates at the time but when you went back to Scotland, you never mentioned it in the dressing room.
GASCOIGNE: I never said a word.
REDKNAPP: Why not?
GASCOIGNE: (smiling) Because I knew I’d already damaged them. The damage was done. I ruined them. So I never said a word.
REDKNAPP: You killed them with silence. You and Ally were good pals, too.
Gascoigne admitted his incredible goal against Scotland in the group stage was his best ever
GASCOIGNE: He lived 1.8 miles from me. One time I was walking back home from the pub, about 1.30am it was. I thought, ‘I know his alarm number’, and I was starving. So I go into his house and start making myself a sandwich.
I feel someone behind me, the light comes on, and Coisty’s stood there with a baseball bat.
He goes, ‘Oh, it’s Gazza. I’ll see you in the morning for training’. I say, ‘See ya Coisty, just making a sandwich’, and he goes back up to bed.
(Paul pauses) I just loved playing football. I knew I was going to do the business. Every week. I knew what I could do with a ball.
REDKNAPP: I’ll be honest, Gaz, I haven’t got many pictures hanging in my house from my playing days. But I do have the one of the dentist’s chair celebration, and I see you’ve got it framed on that table over there, too.
GASCOIGNE: When I scored, I sprinted, got on my back, got my head up and waited. It was always on my mind.
REDKNAPP: They’ve actually timed it, Gaz, and that’s the fastest I’ve ever run.
GASCOIGNE: (laughs) I knew I was going to score. I knew it.
REDKNAPP: Was that your best goal ever?
GASCOIGNE: (pauses) Yeah. My best. I scored one against David Seaman, in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Arsenal.
But that one, for England, at Euro 96, at home, the fans singing your name, it was the best.
Gascoigne exchanges shirts with close friend Ally McCoist after England’s win over Scotland
Game three, and Holland are England’s final opponents in Group A. A draw would do, but the sound of David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s ‘Football’s coming home’ was reverberating around Wembley and Venables’ boys were in the mood.
Shearer and Sheringham score twice each as England win 4-1 to reach the knockout stages…
REDKNAPP: I’d broken my ankle in the game against Scotland so my Euros was over. Terry said I could head home or stick around. I said, ‘Are you joking?’ This was the best football tournament/stag do I’d ever been on! There was no way I was leaving.
You were something else against Holland.
GASCOIGNE: I ruined them. I worked hard, did a few tricks, set up the goal for Alan Shearer and that, and then . . . (Gazza tears up) . . . there were 80,000 singing my name. I really remember that. That was the best feeling I’ve ever had. After that, I thought, ‘Right, we’re going to win this tournament’.
REDKNAPP: We beat Spain in the quarter-finals in a penalty shootout. You score yours. Then come Germany in the semi-finals. It ends 1-1, another shootout, and you score yours again. Gareth Southgate sees his saved and we’re out.
GASCOIGNE: When I take a penalty, I normally hit them to the left, but I mis-kicked this one. It hit my heel and went into the top-right corner! I went, ‘Thank f*** for that’.
Going up to take the penalty I had a lump in my throat. It was scary. I wanted to do it for the lads.
Gascoigne signals ‘four’ as England put Holland to the sword in their final group encounter
REDKNAPP: How we didn’t win that game against Germany, I don’t know.
GASCOIGNE: I’d left my boots in the hotel as well. I had to borrow some.
REDKNAPP: You weren’t even wearing your own boots?
GASCOIGNE: No. I asked around and ended up borrowing Teddy Sheringham’s spares.
REDKNAPP: I never knew that! Oh mate. If you’d been wearing your own boots, your studs might have been long enough to get a touch to Shearer’s ball to the back post!
Do you watch much football now, Gaz?
GASCOIGNE: Not really.
REDKNAPP: Why not?
GASCOIGNE: I find it hard. I miss it badly. I don’t like seeing players who don’t even celebrate when they score.
REDKNAPP: Does that wind you up?
GASCOIGNE: Big time.
England lost to Germany in the semis, with Gareth Southgate missing the decisive penalty
REDKNAPP: You loved football so much that when you were booked in that 1990 World Cup semi-final against Germany, you cried because your tournament was over.
GASCOIGNE: You don’t see that sort of emotion any more. I don’t know if they’re bothered or not. I was.
REDKNAPP: Is there anyone you like in Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020?
GASCOIGNE: Jack Grealish is good. I just wish he’d pull his f***ing socks up and look like a footballer! But he’s always wanting the ball, which is good. Phil Foden is good, too. He’s going to be hot.
REDKNAPP: I don’t know if you’ve seen, Gaz, but Foden’s got a new trim. He’s gone blond, like you!
GASCOIGNE: He just needs to be greedier. He needs to go for it.
It was my dream to play for England. Before the 1990 World Cup, Sir Bobby Robson told me I had one game left to prove myself, and that was against the Czech Republic. So I set up three, scored one, and we won 4-2.
I went for it. I loved playing for England. I loved every minute of it.