Gazza dreams on
3 December, 2001
Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty looks at the changing
role of the revitalised Paul Gascoigne at Everton.
Paul Gascoigne may still talk fondly of England and the World Cup - but his only realistic challenge lies with Everton at Goodison Park.
Gascoigne's brilliant cameo performance as a second-half substitute inspired Everton's 2-0 win against Southampton.
And it once again prompted more reckless talk of England and Gascoigne - nonsense of course.
Gascoigne's World Cup chances rate on a par with those other one-time England regulars Carlton Palmer, Tony Daley and Keith Curle.
But it does not stop him dreaming of England - and does not stop him being asked about it.
And, as Gascoigne dreams, Everton can reap the benefits from one of the game's most enduring talents.
If Gascoigne has a football goal, he will continue to aim for it and Everton will pick up the dividend.
Gascoigne is not the blockbusting and surging midfield presence of old, too many injuries and too many personal problems have seen to that.
But, as he showed against the Saints, he still possesses enough natural ability and sheer presence to turn a game on its head.
Everton were jeered off at half-time against Southampton, prompting the introduction of Gascoigne and Mark Pembridge.
Pembridge helped to create Tomasz Radzinski's first goal and scored the second - but it was Gascoigne who lifted the atmosphere.
He is not the 90-minute man of days gone by, but he has shown enough to suggest he can be Everton's shock tactic, a not-so-secret weapon.
Everton's fans responded to Gascoigne's enthusiasm and intuition as their awful first-half display was swiftly forgotten.
He was the focal point for an Everton passing game that was non-existent in the first half, but came to the fore in the second.
And he was almost on target with a trademark surging run that took out a handful of Southampton defenders before bringing an outstanding save from Paul Jones.
Gascoigne's priority now is not England - that will not be happening and it is patronising to still ask him the question - but he proved on Sunday he is still capable of a contribution.
The main battle for Gascoigne now is to stay fit, and he looks as lean and hungry as he has for years.
And, more importantly, he has to convince his long-time mentor, Everton boss Walter Smith, to give him an extension to his current deal that expires at the end of the season.
In his current form and condition he could get it, but it is all up to Gascoigne - just as it always has been.
© 2001 BBC
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