Players

Sarah Gilmore and John Williams explain why Paul Gascoigne had an easy time of it following allegations of wife beating

Who could doubt the awfulness of the daily existence of Paul Gascoigne, given the culture of the ‘tabloid celebrity’ shaped for us by the popular press over the past decade? A goldfish bowl nightmare if ever there was one. But the precarious PR profile being created of Gazza as ‘new-ish’ man fell apart at Gleneagles. The subsequent press mêlée which focused on his inclusion or exclusion from the England squad revealed some extremely unpleasant and morally suspect views so prevalent in the game and in the liberal media.

Cris Freddi pays tribute to former England international centre forward Tommy Lawton, who died in November

Five foot eleven has got to be a misprint. Reading about the famous ability in the air, you expect something like Niall Quinn but heavier (he looks that big in photos and film clips) and instead you have to adjust to the idea of a white Les Ferdinand, which isn’t exactly the stuff of folklore.

Superstars, who needs them? Ian Plenderleith reports on Tomas Brolin's not so successful time in Switzerland

It’s a story as old as a Viking legend. Poor, struggling football club surviving on meagre gates suddenly signs big name international striker. Big name turns up amid huge fanfare, yards of extra newspaper print and hyped-up expectation among the fans. Big name runs out onto the pitch overweight and unfit, and after failing to score a goal in a handful of appearances disappears out the back door unnoticed and unmourned.

Looking at the downward spiral of a controversial player, Harry Pearson reflects on the turbulent times of Paul Gascoigne

When Channel 4 broadcast their documentary Gazza’s Coming Home last month, it seemed it might herald a change in the media’s perception of Britain’s most written about footballer. Gascoigne, it appeared, had reached a crossroads in his life and for once hadn’t responded by dashing headlong down the route marked “Total Disaster – This Way”. He was fully fit, newly married, playing well for club and country. Most importantly of all he had become a Dad.

Jimmy Burns examines how many of Diego Maradona's problems were of his own making

There is a childhood memory that keeps coming back to Diego Maradona as an image of self-preservation in a world spiralling out of control.

Tim Springett explains why the FA's widely publicised anti-booze campaign is doomed to fail.

A mere day after Tony Adams owns up to an alcohol problem comes the announcement by the FA that they are to intensify their programme of random breath-tests of players. Such testing, so it seems, has already been taking place for three years. Apparently there have been no positive tests so far: for the FA’s sake, this is just as well.

Premiership superstars swap cubs for millions but down in the lower divisions the picture is rather different. Tom Findlay reports from the twilight world of pre-season trialists

In the summer months, when football is supposed to take a break, thousands of ‘free agents’ trawl around the smaller playing fields of England desperate to find a club. Loanees, refugees and YTSs trying to fulfil their dream. It’s not a pretty business. Cambridge United, who have spent the last two seasons bobbing round the nether regions of Division 3, played some twenty games through August featuring a small army of trialists. The first game of the shopping season featured 22 players the club had never seen before – none survived.

Matt Nation explains why beneath the surface all football teams are a seething mass of personal enmity and hatred

Players not really fitting in – it’s as old as the hills, but is always considered a scoop: Bobby Charlton was considered aloof as a player at Manchester United; Steve Archibald never used to talk to anybody: nobody understands Stan Collymore; and now, most recently, Klinsmann, and just about every other German international, won’t have anything to do with Lothar Matthäus.

The recent death of Cissie Charlton drew attention to the mysteries that still surround England's most famous footballing dynasty, as Harry Pearson reveals

The names of football’s great and good are routinely prefixed with the word ‘legendary’, as if it is the most natural thing in the world for the media to suggest that, say, Sir Stanley Matthews is a partly fictional creation. The press coverage of Cissie Charlton’s death on March 26th followed this familiar pattern. In some ways this was fitting since the most well-known aspect of Cissie’s life, the hours spent patiently teaching her second son Bobby the skills of the game, was entirely the product of overheated journalistic imaginations.

Matt Nation issues a heartfelt plea to footballers to get on with what they do best and stop, well, messing about

“We lost because we done too much fanny dangle,” Dave Bassett once fumed a couple of years back after Sheffield United had gone down without a fight to Coventry. He may well have been right, but this was probably scant use to his team when they looked to analyze the defeat, since they, along with most people on the planet, don’t even have an inkling of what fanny dangle is.

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